Realistic response needed for North Korea

U.S. officials cannot say – or at least, will not – whether North Korea has managed to miniaturize nuclear weapons enough to use them as missile warheads. If that has occurred, it is an extraordinarily serious threat to world peace.

North Korean officials claim they have built a nuclear device that can be delivered by a missile – and it is known the regime has both short- and medium-range rockets. Asked about the report this week, U.S. officials would not comment on its veracity.

Even if Pyongyang has not accomplished what it says, the claim fits into a pattern. When North Korea first touted successes with missiles, they were dismissed. Indeed, it developed there were no rockets.

But later, the North Koreans did succeed, and continue to do so with their missile program.

When the dictatorship said it had nuclear weapons, that claim, too, proved false.

But later, a monitored test indicated a nuclear weapon had been built.

So now, there should be no doubt whatsoever that the North Koreans are developing nuclear warheads – and it is only a matter of time until they have them.

Almost beyond doubt, the Pentagon has contingency plans in place to deal with such a threat.

But do the State Department and the White House? History during recent years makes that a valid concern.

It is not a question of whether North Korea will have missiles with nuclear warheads, but rather, when that will occur.

When it does, U.S. officials need to be ready with a realistic diplomatic response – backed, if necessary, by a military strategy to take care of the threat.