North Korea’s nuclear scenario just got scarier with Wednesday’s launch of the Hwasong-15 ICBM. This missile test with a wider payload capability and a possibly gimballed engine means Pyongyang has moved decisively towards becoming a full-fledged nuclear power that can hit long-range targets. More tests are expected. It’s also no surprise that Kim Jong-Un’s rogue regime should now threaten to explode a hydrogen bomb in the open air over the Pacific. A North Korea that is seemingly capable of following through with tests of thermonuclear devices is a bigger threat to world peace, even if its declared ambitions are limited to building a nuclear deterrence that may one day force the United States to rethink the stationing of troops in South Korea.
US President Donald Trump has so far issued a muted response to the changing threat perception. But it is time that he reached out to Mr Kim with an offer of direct talks since the roundabout diplomacy through Chinese envoys does not seem to be working. The Chinese may have some influence over a neighbour and major trading partner, but not to the extent of reining in its warring ambitions. It is also possible that the Chinese strategy is to encourage the nuclear programme in a display of schadenfreude against another global superpower. North Korea may be way out of line with its ambitions to enhance its nuclear capabilities in such an irresponsible way as to threaten the US and its allies South Korea and Japan. For the sake of world peace, it would be best, therefore, if Mr Trump reached out directly to Mr Kim.