The escalating rhetoric between President Trump and North Korea in the last week has many people asking, Should we be scared?
Here's what happened: On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that North Korea had successfully created a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside a missile. Hours later, President Trump berated North Korea for making more threats against the United States and warned that if the country kept it up, "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." North Korea's army responded in a statement distributed by state media Wednesday by saying it was examining a plan to use ballistic missiles to make an "enveloping fire" around Guam, a U.S. territory that's home to the Andersen Air Force Base.
Then, Friday morning President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" if North Korea acts "unwisely," further escalating the exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
Despite the inflammatory language Trump and the North Korean army have used, analysts say nuclear war between North Korea and the United States is not imminent. However, the incendiary rhetoric from both sides is increasing the risk, so analysts are calling on all parties to de-escalate.
To help you calm down, here's what experts in South Korea, China, and the U.S. had to say.
There's a slim chance there will be an attack.
A North Korean attack or an American pre-emptive strike is unlikely, said John Delury, an associate professor of East Asian Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.
He saw North Korea's statement as a warning to Washington that its missiles could reach targets in the region, rather than one of an actual attack.
"Well, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say if North Korea was planning some kind of pre-emptive or surprise attack on Guam, we would not be reading about it in North Korean media," Delury said. "Now, that said, you do need to track their threats. And there are cases where they [have] made a specific threat and carried it out."
A U.S. strike against North Korea would need the support of South Korea, he said, because the North would likely retaliate against the South and its 600,000 troops.
"It's not something you can do without robust, full support from the South Korean government people, and there's absolutely no sign that South Korea will support military options with North Korea," Delury said.
But, China is concerned.
Chinese government-backed scholars said Beijing is deeply concerned about the latest statements from Trump and North Korea. They hold the U.S. partly responsible, saying Trump's heated rhetoric is fueling the flames.
Trump's tough talk has contributed to an increase in animosity that is pushing the sides closer to armed conflict, said Cheng Xiaohe of the School of International Studies at Beijing's Renmin University.
"If not kept well under control, this verbal spat could turn into a military clash," he said, adding that China should dispatch diplomats to engage in shuttle diplomacy to bring the sides to the negotiating table.
Zhang Liangui, a professor at the ruling Communist Party's main training academy, believes the U.S., China, and Russia need to come together to force the North to de-escalate.
"The big countries should not attack each other, but unite to better cooperate on maintaining the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he said.
Still, North Korea doesn't have the capability yet.
U.S. nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker, who has repeatedly visited North Korea's nuclear facilities, said he doesn't think the nation currently has weapons systems for "enveloping fire" around Guam, as it threatened.
"I don't believe they have the capability to do so yet, and besides, why would they want to commit suicide by attacking a remote target like Guam?" he said. "The real threat is stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula by misunderstanding or miscalculation. Inflammatory rhetoric on both sides will make that more likely. It's time to tone down the rhetoric."
Hecker said North Korea does not have a sophisticated nuclear weapon like those of the U.S., Russia, Britain, China, or France, the major nuclear superpowers.
"The shorter-range missile that can reach South Korea and Japan can accommodate larger nuclear warhead payloads," he said. "Making the warhead sufficiently small, light, and robust to survive an ICBM delivery is extremely challenging and still beyond North Korea's reach."
The way to avert a war with North Korea is to have a conversation, and that's not happening, Hecker said, adding, "Unfortunately, there seems to be no serious dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, only threats."
This story was originally published on August 9, 2017.