This editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
North Korea presents what is perhaps America's most dangerous and urgent dilemma at the moment. So what should the Trump administration do?
Here is the problem. The Pyongyang regime of Leader Kim Jong Un, pretty much a one-trick pony with that steed being its nuclear weapon-missile program, has proved itself over the years to be very hard to deal with. Six-party talks, including South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, haven't worked. Various palliative, conciliatory approaches to North Korea by various South Korean regimes haven't worked either.
Trump is pursuing a policy of pushing China to rein in North Korea.
The overall picture is one of North Korea representing a realistic, lethal threat to South Korea. The southern capital is 55 kilometres from the North Korean border. North Korea's army numbers an estimated 1.4 million. Whether North Korea can or will present a credible intercontinental threat to the United States is in doubt, but at this point unlikely.
Nobody doubts that the United States could annihilate North Korea in a war. It is even quite possible that America already possesses technology that can hamstring North Korea's military enterprises. There is some ugly suspicion that Trump might like a war to establish his own credibility as president, although that would be remarkably irresponsible. Thus, however, the field is particularly open to diplomacy at the highest level, giving Kim, Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping the opportunity to put lots of points on the board for leadership, at home as well as abroad.
So here's what could happen: Trump asks Xi to set up a meeting in Beijing at which Kim and he meet as guests of Xi to establish peace and avoid war in the Korean Peninsula.
Kim gets the serious recognition he clearly wants. Xi looks like the peace-seeking big dog of the neighbourhood. Trump looks like the wise leader who used his new prestige to bring peace and avoid war, even while America's muscle remains visible. With such talks set up, underway or completed successfully, everyone could sleep much better.