North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho accused US President Donald Trump of declaring war on his country and threatened to shoot down American bombers on Monday. The White House denied the allegation as "absurd" and claimed it is not at war with Pyongyang.
Earlier, Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea" and that Pyongyang "won't be around much longer." North Korea won't regard these statements as casual musings. From now on, the country will seriously take precautions against potential decapitation operations. Pyongyang believes that the US may launch a military strike at any time, and in response held a mass anti-US rally in Pyongyang backing its leader, a true reflection of its anxiety toward US threats.
If Washington has not made up its mind to strike Pyongyang in the coming weeks, it should avoid escalating its intimidation of the country in this way. Trump threatens North Korea as randomly as he hits at American football players. The rhetoric has already caused serious miscalculations. History suggests that an escalation of miscalculations may eventually lead to a real war.
More worryingly, Trump may have threatened Pyongyang on purpose, which reflects the "calculations" of some American strategists. By intimidating North Korea, Trump is telling the American public that their president and country are still responsible for world security, and will not allow US security to be threatened by countries like North Korea. Meanwhile Trump needs to demonstrate to its allies that the US is still a reliable leader. In addition, tensions on the Korean Peninsula conform to US strategic needs, as the added hostility and antagonism in the region create trouble for China, its main rival in the Asia-Pacific region. This has not been clearly stated, but is actually the most important point.
For a long time, the US has been using the peninsula issue as a tool to manipulate the East Asia situation and to counter China's rise. This is the main reason that Pyongyang's nuclear crisis has spiraled into today's dangerous situation. Further escalation of tensions will only lead to war.
To some extent, the US can take advantage of aggravated tensions to realize its strategic purpose, but the situation may lurch beyond control. The US would inevitably suffer losses if war breaks out. No one knows what will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Both sides should step back and stop trading provocative threats.
Evaluating the current situation before making decisions is perhaps the best choice for the concerned parties for now.