The risks of pre-emptive strikes against North Korea

2. A Set of Strikes to Devastate the Arsenal

How it would work: Striking nuclear and missile facilities would delay the programs and pressure Pyongyang to surrender them. Cyberattacks, launched alongside or instead of physical attacks, could sabotage the programs and disrupt the military command.

The challenge: Because North Korea’s program is indigenous rather than imported from abroad, the country has the know-how to replace destroyed facilities, making setbacks temporary. It would be difficult to strike existing missiles hidden around the country, most likely leaving much of the threat in place.

The risk: Even a limited attack would probably prompt retaliation. An attack broad enough to seriously degrade the program could provoke North Korean fears of an invasion or an assassination attempt, potentially leading to all-out war.