How does the threat posed by North Korea end? There are many “hard landing” scenarios. War. Regime collapse. A premature exit by Kim Jong Un that leads to a military junta or another family member taking over. There aren’t many “soft landings” except for maybe the “China model,” a process where the North liberalizes its economy like China did in the late 1970s and slowly becomes a more responsible, if not particularly appealing, country. The problem with all these scenarios is the nuclear weapons remain — or worse — they are used.
The Lesson of Nuclear History: Use Diplomacy. During the nuclear age, dozens countries started down the path to nuclear weapons but reversed course. And there are cases where countries acquired or inherited nuclear weapons gave them up outright. Often, that happy result was accomplished not through war but diplomacy – agreements that stopped or rolled back a nuclear weapons program.