Just when it looked as if Washington and Pyongyang were tiptoeing once again toward negotiations on North Korean nukes and missiles, the North has thrown a predictable grenade into the process and set all parties onto yet another warpath. Threatening to violate U.N. resolutions and undercut a recent understanding with Washington, Pyongyang reaffirmed last week that it plans to launch a satellite into orbit in April. This latest eruption and President Obama's tough response were largely shrouded by other events—the nuclear summit in Seoul, more horrors in Syria, the trauma of Trayvon Martin's killing, and the trials of Obamacare in the Supreme Court. But doubt not, the muffled eruptions will make international waves soon enough.
To complicate and confound matters further, North Korea has done more than simply throw grenades. In recent weeks, Pyongyang officials have been telling Americans in private, frank, and explicit ways just how the two sides can resolve the nuclear and missile issues. These messages will present Washington with some incredibly hard choices in the months ahead—between continuing to live with North Korean nukes for some time in a Cold Peace or pushing for their elimination and risking confrontation.