This past weekend, it is now confirmed, North Korea successfully tested an ICBM.
If intelligence reports are correct, the missile is not yet capable of hauling a nuclear warhead, but it soon will be, at which point there will be no place in the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, or Japan, that will be free from the threat of North Korean nuclear strikes. Of course, Japan and South Korea, and parts of Russia and China, are already so exposed.
It's likely a safe assumption that the US now has to act before nuclear warheads top those missiles. The only question is when, and if there can be some solution to stave off an armed strike against North Korea first.
I very much doubt that.
While at least one headline today proclaims this to be Donald Trump's fault, it isn't. The US has been trying the carrot and stick approach with the bizarre Stalinist theme park of North Korea since the Clinton Administration. Nothing has worked, and no US administration has been able to make serious inroads into real progress with the North. Likewise successive South Korean Administrations, some aggressive some less so, have failed to push North Korea towards rationality. Everything has failed.
I've long thought that China would ultimately push the bizarre family dictatorship in the north out. China''s no longer really a communist country, even though it is not a democratic one. But time is now running out for that, if it hasn't already. Of course, China well knows that, making the situation all the more dangerous for all, if we keep in mind that the US and China came to blows during the first US led effort to push the Communist out, but it also may mean that China will now feel compelled to act.
Anyway we look at it, this is a dangerous new situation. War, I suspect, is more likely than not.