Remember the “Axis of evil“? That was what this administration called Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Then it invaded one of them — the one without atomic weapons. The other two, who while they may be crazed in other ways reacted quite rationally to the obvious implicit threat of invasion, put their nuclear programs into higher gear.
Now it seems as if the North Koreans have exploded a nuclear weapon. While this may lead to some strict sanctions, it seems fairly clear that possession of a nuclear weapon also reduces to nearly zero the chance of foreign invasion. The chance of that was already quite small in the case of the North Koreans, but one can understand why they may not have wished to risk being wrong about that.
The North Korean government is one of the less rational ones on earth, so one can’t say with confidence that a sensible policy on the US side would have guaranteed success at keeping them from going nuclear. One can say, however, that the current administration’s abandonment of the Clinton policy of multilateralism and engagement ensured this dire outcome.
Chalk up one more disaster for this administration’s failures to focus on what matters, and its general incompetence.