A leading North Korea expert said the country is a year and a half away from creating a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States.

Some time in the next year, North Korea expert Gordon Chang told Fox News, “they will have a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States and we will have to make a decision about how we deter North Korea.”

Chang believes the Trump administration understands the threat.  At a security conference in Aspen over the weekend, Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that diplomacy should be allowed to play out for a few more months and then “there may have to be a follow-up option, which is the military option.”

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Chang said the timing is significant.

“It is an indication that the administration is thinking of an accelerated time frame” regarding the North Korean issue.

Chang had praise for the pro-active approach of the Trump administration compared to the “strategic patience” approach of the Obama administration.

“I’m not inclined to give them a pass, but I think they are doing a very good job,” Chang noted, “First of all, they are dealing with it.”

The approach does have its risks, however, including a war of words which could literally turn into a war.

At that same Aspen security conference late last week, referring to the North Korean nuclear threat and the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, CIA Director Mike Pompeo remarked “the most dangerous (thing) about it is the ‘character’ who holds control over them today.”

That was the most aggressive comments from the Trump administration. And a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman shot back with a vengeance.   

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“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership,” the spokesman said, “we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our nuclear hammer.”

Still, as regional expert Chang notes, any activist stance regarding North Korea is not without problems. 

“It will be dangerous,” he warns, “everything is dangerous.”   

But according to Chang and others experts doing nothing at all about the North Korean menace might hold the most danger of all.  

More recently, South Korea said it was noticing new activity at a site from where Pyongyang has launched missiles in the past. 

U.S. officials tells Fox News this could indicate a possible test launch of another missile, maybe timed to mark the Thursday anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement between North and South Korea. That agreement was supposed to end hostilities 64 years ago.

Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.