Though US intelligence indicates North Korea may soon be able to attach a miniaturized nuclear weapon to a missile capable of hitting the US, it's not the only threat experts are watching.
"We have to be careful not to start a war with misplaced rhetoric," said Mark Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington D.C. "North Korea is not going to attack the United States out of the blue. They would only attack the United States in desperation if they thought it was the last thing they could do to save their regime."
After 30 years of following nuclear proliferation and conflict with North Korea, Fitzpatrick says the latest suggestion that North Korea might target Guam sounds like a threat, not a sign of desperation.
"They are responding the same way the president is responding. When he ratchets up the rhetoric, they ratchet up the rhetoric," Fitzpatrick said, referring to President Trump's statement on Tuesday afternoon.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," President Trump said. "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."
"I think we all have to take a step back here and realize we're not at the brink of war," Fitzpatrick said. "North Korea is not going to start a war and what we need to do is start a dialogue to lower the tension."
But it's unclear who is committed to lowering tension. Fitzpatrick said that he's encouraged that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson generated unanimous support for UN sanctions aganst North Korea, but he says it will take diplomacy on all levels to manage the problem.
"Rhetoric can lead to war if it creates a misperception," Fitzpatric said. "That's the real danger here."
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