The day after a celebration of the 105 anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the North Korean state, that featured displays of what experts called an ICBM, and a submarine-launched missile capable of reaching the United States, North Korean attempted to test a ballistic missile. The weapon exploded on launch, and some have speculated that the accident was the result of an American cyberattack. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, whose father won the Bronze Star for service in the Korean War, was in Seoul, South Korea, noting how the attempted launch was a provocation that constituted a danger for the entire reason.

North Korea may be preparing for another atomic bomb test. The Trump administration has vowed to take unspecified action against the country if that were to happen. A carrier battle group is approaching the waters off Korea that would be quite capable of making such actions happen should the United States judge it to be necessary.

The Korean situation has spiraled from a slow burning problem, ever since Pyongyang exploded its first nuclear weapon in the 1990s, to a full born crisis. Partly the reason is that the United States has concluded that North Korea is closer to acquiring missiles that can deliver a weapon of mass destruction against the American homeland. Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is considered insane enough, in the clinical sense, to launch such an attack, American policy has become to prevent that happening at all costs.

Enlisting the Chinese is an effort to restrain Kim seems to be the preferred option and Beijing seems willing to oblige to a certain extent. As useful as North Korea is a thorn in the side of the West, Kim may well be mad enough to threaten his chief ally and sponsor. China has deployed troops on the border with North Korea and is hinting it may take military action itself.

In the meantime, the Trump administration has not ruled out an American first strike against North Korean nuclear facilities as a way to forestall an attack on the American homeland. The White House has to calculate how that will likely touch off a Second Korean War. With Seoul under North Korean artillery range, that is not a light matter to risk.

But such a war may be preferred to the obliteration of an American city and the inevitable counter attack that would take the lives of millions. Such are the awful choices facing President Trump less than three months into his administration.