War of Words Threatens Greater Escalation on Korean Peninsula

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer prepares to take off for a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, July 30, 2017. Flickr/U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger

As the war of words escalates between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un amid a series of North Korean missile launches and a September 3 nuclear test, Gi-Wook Shin, director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, expressed concern that what is happening "might be more than an escalation of rhetoric. . . there may be escalation of expectations." Read the news item in the Independent here. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Shin said "one could argue that the [Trump administration's] contradictory messages fit well with its somewhat paradoxical North Korea policy, 'maximum pressure, maximum engagement.'"

In an appearance on PBS Newshour, Kathleen Stephens, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and William J. Perry Fellow at Shorenstein APARC's Korea Program, expressed concern that the presidential brinkmanship was undermining diplomatic efforts to deescalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Stephens suggested the U.S. President "restrain from twittering" the war of words in a recent interview with Yonhap News.

Yong Suk Lee, deputy director of the Korea Program at the Shorenstein APARC, said "the harsh rhetorics going back and forth between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump may indeed fuel the probability of military action. And it indeed seems like the hardliners are getting  a stronger voice domestically, not just in the U.S., but also in North Korea. However, the increased tension may actually serve as an opportunity. When the stakes are this high — with the possibility of a nuclear war, and for North Korea, an economy that is just starting to develop — the incentive to strike a deal may be higher." Listen to his interview with KCRW: To the Point here.