What next for North Korea, Guam and Trump? Experts weigh in

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — Threatening language between the U.S. and North Korea is flaring this week. After President Donald Trump vowed to respond with “fire and fury” if Pyongyang continued to threaten the U.S., the North’s military said it is finalizing a plan to fire four midrange missiles to hit waters near the strategic U.S. territory of Guam.

Below, North Korea experts reached Wednesday in the U.S. discuss the gravity of the moment and where both countries, and the world, could go from here:

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CLOSER TO THE BRINK, TALKS ESSENTIAL

Srinivasan Sitaraman, political scientist at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts:

Despite Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to play down Trump’s statements on unleashing “fire and fury” on the North, “it seems that Mr. Trump either deliberately or inadvertently threatened nuclear annihilation of North Korea. One of the consequences of this war of words and the associated escalation postures is that it would be very hard for both the United States and North Korea to back down after having quickly pushed each other close to the brink.

“Despite this escalation it is my belief that the possibility of a nuclear exchange, although higher than normal, is still below the threshold of actual usage. … It is absolutely essential to find ways to bring North Korea to the negotiating table and engage them in talks and remove the cloud of nuclear war that is hanging over the world. Getting the North Koreans to the negotiating table is not something that could be achieved in the short term, but the Six Parties (the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia) and the U.N. Security Council must work towards laying the groundwork towards this objective.”

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PLAYING INTO KIM’S HANDS?

Tony Talbott, interim executive director of the University of Dayton Human Rights Center in Ohio:

“Both leaders are primarily speaking to their domestic audiences. Trump wants or needs to appear strong to fit his image and previous rhetoric. Kim needs to maintain the illusion of him being the only possible savior of his country and people — an island of virtue adrift in a sea of brutal enemies. With China and Russia agreeing to the (U.N. Security Council) sanctions against DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name), Kim truly looks and feels alone and will increase his strident rhetoric. Engaging in this theater with him, escalating the intensity and threat of our responses, will be detrimental…

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