While relations between North Korea and the United States were always strained at best, it appears that this time the two countries actually risk starting a war that may involve the use of nuclear weapons.
Gevorg Mirzayan, a prominent political analyst and associate professor at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, told RIA Novosti that North Korea and the US have been exchanging threats for quite a while.
"Both North Korea and the US were always assuming that war would result in fatal consequences for all sides, and thus remained unwilling to start it. North Korea would stage provocations (like launching another missile); the US would respond with new sanctions or threats. And then Russia, China or time itself would calm everyone down, until the next provocation," Mirzayan said.
According to Mirzayan, the US stopped responding in a "decent" fashion to Pyongyang’s harsh rhetoric. By threatening to unleash “fire and fury” upon North Korea, US President Donald Trump basically employed the same language that Kim Jong Un uses, and the North Korean leadership simply cannot afford not to respond to this development.
Therefore tensions continue to escalate to the point that "even the usually reckless McCain called Trump to ease off," the analyst remarked.
Furthermore, the US was willing to tolerate the North Korean provocations while Pyongyang was unable to launch a nuclear strike.
Now however, US intelligence apparently believes that North Korea has nuclear warheads and delivery systems capable of performing such an attack. And as the North Korean threats to "teach Washington a harsh lesson using nuclear weapons" or launch a strike against Guam become more and more real, US generals are starting to consider a devastating response to what they regard as a threat to their country’s national security.
The question is, would it be possible to resolve this dangerous situation without resorting to hostilities?
It would be impossible to force North Korea to relinquish its nuclear arsenal because Pyongyang is well aware of what happened to Libya, Iraq and Syria – countries that lacked a nuclear deterrent.
However, Kim Jong Un also refuses to engage in what he perceives as pointless negotiations with countries that seek a regime change in his country. Meanwhile, the US refuses to undertake any measures that might undermine or weaken its military and political presence in the region.
According to Mirzayan, it might be possible for the US and North Korea to return to the old model of talks that was employed 20 years ago – to discuss only the North Korean nuclear and missile programs while avoiding other matters like human rights issues or conventional weapons reduction.
However, while the North Korean leadership appears rational enough to realize that they’re close to crossing the red line and to be willing to pursue this approach, it remains unclear if the US public and Congress would agree to this.
"Only 21 percent of Americans are willing to support a deal that would suspend the North Korean nuclear program instead of dismantling it. And there are even less level-headed people at the Capitol, which lately became a nest of ‘hawks’. In this situation Trump may be unable to seal this deal even if he wanted to. And without such deal the US and North Korea risk continuing their tango while plummeting into the abyss," Mirzayan warned.