North Korean Nuclear Challenge: Military Options and Issues for Congress [November 6, 2017] [open pdf - 2MB]
"North Korea's apparently successful July 2017 tests of its intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, along with the possibility that North Korea (DPRK) may have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, have led analysts and policymakers to conclude that the window for preventing the DPRK from acquiring a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States is closing. These events appear to have fundamentally altered U.S. perceptions of the threat the Kim Jong-un regime poses to the continental United States and the international community, and escalated the standoff on the Korean Peninsula to levels that have arguably not been seen since 1994. A key issue is whether or not the United States could manage and deter a nuclear-armed North Korea if it were to become capable of attacking targets in the U.S. homeland, and whether taking decisive military action to prevent the emergence of such a DPRK capability might be necessary. Either choice would bring with it considerable risk for the United States, its allies, regional stability, and global order. Trump Administration officials have stated that 'all options are on the table,' to include the use of military force to 'denuclearize'--generally interpreted to mean eliminating nuclear weapons and related capabilities from that area. One potential question for Congress is whether, and how, to employ the U.S. military to accomplish denuclearization, and whether using the military might result in miscalculation on either side, or perhaps even conflict escalation."
CRS Report for Congress, R44994