War Looming: How diplomatic hopes with North Korea plunged


“Pyongyang and Washington are caught in a vicious cycle of action and reaction,” Korea expert Duyeon Kim wrote in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. “If nothing happens to break the cycle, it will continue until one side either stands down, which is very unlikely, or, far worse, takes military action.”

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The exchanges at the unofficial U.S.-North Korean talks 10 months ago hadn’t been reported before. They were recounted to The Associated Press by a participant who requested anonymity to describe them. No U.S. government officials took part.

Although North Korea at that time signaled interest in talks with Washington, its uncompromising position made plain the challenges Trump faced as he entered the White House, promising to sort out the North Korean “mess” he inherited. It also underscored how much difficulty the U.S. has experienced gauging the North’s thinking.

Before his inauguration, Trump blithely tweeted about the prospect of Kim having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America: — “It won’t happen!” Almost a year later, and after an onslaught of new economic sanctions and U.S. military threats, the nuclear menace from Pyongyang is far worse.