Mar.8 (Dow Jones) -- The collapse last week of the Hanoi summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, without an agreement on even minor steps toward disarmament, means that we are likely to face a nuclear North Korea for the foreseeable future.

Since Pyongyang tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, every U.S. president has demanded that North Korea completely denuclearize. Within the Trump administration, there is disagreement about that prospect: Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told Congress in January that North Korea is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities. President Trump retorted on Twitter that there is a Decent Chance of Denuclearization. Though Mr. Kim abstained from testing warheads and missiles in 2018, he could change tack any time. North Korea is still producing missiles and enriched uranium, and there are signs it has begun rebuilding a key missile testing facility that was partially dismantled after Trumps first meeting with Mr. Kim last June.

Are Americans willing to live with the North Korean nuclear threat? Under what conditions would the public support using military force to accomplish what sanctions and diplomacy have not?

We sought answers last month by asking the online polling firm YouGov to survey a representative sample of 3,000 Americans about their attitudes toward North Koreas nuclear program. We found some notable tensions and misconceptions. The American public does not want to let Pyongyang keep its weapons but also does not want to go to war to eliminate them. They are also overconfident that, in the event of a major war, the U.S. could shoot down North Koreas missiles.

No scenario prompted a majority to endorse disarming North Korea through a large-scale military operation.

The survey revealed deep concern. Only 33% of the public agrees that if necessary, the United States can learn to live with a nuclear armed North Korea. More than 70% consider it likely that over the next 10 years, North Korea might experience an accident or unauthorized use of its nuclear weapons. Only 12% of respondents trust North Koreas leader, Mr. Kim, to make rational decisions when it comes to the use of military force. More Americans trust Mr. Trump to do so, but still only 45%.

Whats less clear is how Americans want to address the problem. Most of those surveyed are reluctant to see the U.S. start military action against North Korea, even if Mr. Kim were to resume testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. We asked all of the respondents to consider this basic crisis scenario but varied such details as the actions taken by both sides, the capacity of Pyongyang to strike the U.S. and the number of projected fatalities for different moves.

None of the scenarios prompted a majority of respondents to endorse disarming North Korea through a large-scale conventional military operation or nuclear strike. Nor did the public support a limited U.S. military operation to signal resolve, like the idea of a so-called bloody nose strike aired by some U.S. officials last year. Preventive war seems to be off the table for most Americans. When asked if Mr. Kim could be deterred from using nuclear weapons against the U.S. or South Korea simply by the threat of devastating U.S. retaliation, 65% said yes.

At the same time, North Koreas nuclear weapons dont appear to intimidate Americans. Mr. Kim should not mistake Americans rejection of preventive war as an indication that his nuclear arsenal could provide cover for acts of aggression. More than two-thirds want to withdraw from negotiations if North Korea resumes testing long-range missiles. When asked if the U.S. should attack North Korea in response to an invasion of South Korea, 65% approved.

We gave one subgroup of respondents a scenario in which a U.S. ship was sunk by the North Koreans while patrolling in international waters, killing 46 sailors (echoing the sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan by the North in 2010). In that case, 52% approved of a massive U.S. conventional strike on the North, even when reminded that there was a chance that North Korea could retaliate with nuclear weapons and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

77% of our respondents believe that U.S. missile defenses could destroy all North Korean missiles before they reach their targets.

The answers showed that the U.S. public is deeply misinformed about North Korean and U.S. capability in a nuclear standoff. Most experts in the U.S. military and technical community do not have high confidence that currently deployed U.S. missile defenses could shoot down long-range missiles. By contrast, 77% of our respondents believe that it is highly likely or somewhat likely that current U.S. missile defenses could successfully destroy all the North Korean missiles before they reached their targets.

When asked if a U.S. conventional first strike would successfully destroy all of North Koreas nuclear weapons, eliminating North Koreas ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons against the United States or South Korea, a third put the odds at 75% or higher. That also is optimistic. Vice Adm. Mike Dumont, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported to Congress in 2017 that The only way to locate and destroywith complete certaintyall components of North Koreas nuclear weapons programs is through a ground invasion.

These misperceptions matter. Respondents who think U.S. missile defenses are highly effective were twice as supportive of launching a U.S. preventive strike against North Korea as those who do not, 40% to 20%. And the respondents who think a U.S. first strike is very likely to eliminate North Koreas ability to retaliate are three times as likely to support a strike as those who dont.

The problem now posed by North Korea is one of deterrence and containment. We once learned to live with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union, and it may be time to reopen the Cold War arms-control playbookfor instance, by setting up a hotline between Washington and Pyongyang, negotiating an agreement about how to avoid escalation in the event of dangerous military encounters, and agreeing to mutual constraints on missile tests and military exercises.

Our survey results also show, however, that we should work to educate the American people about the limits of U.S. military might and the value of coupling nuclear deterrence with arms-control diplomacy.

Dr. Sagan is a professor of political science and senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Dr. Valentino is an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College.

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Fecha de publicación: 08/03/2019