Maybe not? Possibly not?

Brilliant, the headline says “Are we on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea? Probably not.” but the people quoted say the opposite. To be precise they say well if they keep shouting at each other things could get out of hand – so we could be, yes. Seeing as how there’s a raging moron in the driver’s seat over here and the other guy isn’t a genius either…

…it’s not looking good.

The Washington Post asked a range of experts in both the United States and South Korea if this time was any different. How worried should we be about conflict breaking out, accidental or otherwise?

Here are their replies.

Duyeon Kim, visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum, specializing in nuclear nonproliferation

“There’s an enormous difference between speaking North Korea’s language and firing verbal bombs, and frankly, engaging in a dangerously childish shouting match. The administration seems to believe that President Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ was designed to send ‘a strong message to North Korea in the kind of language that North Korea understands.’ Now, Trump’s latest threat of the impossible has directly targeted Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang surely has done nothing right and threats of its war plans are more detailed than we have seen with a deadline for Guam. But words by the President of the United States matter. Irresponsibly throwing around nuclear war threats could spiral into accidental and inadvertent conflict from miscalculation and mishap.

Precisely. And that’s not a “probably not.”

David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California

…The message is one of deterrence, not first strike. Both sides are reiterating that they will fight back if attacked. Deterrence works, because both sides believe the other. It is widely accepted that North Korea will strike at American targets somewhere in the Pacific if we attack them first, almost nobody doubts that. For their part, the North Koreans fully expect a massive American attack at some point, they believe us. So deterrence holds, because of the costs involved. It’s not pretty, but it works.”

That’s a “probably not.”

Alison Evans, deputy head of the Asia-Pacific desk at IHS Markit’s Country Risk team

…The current situation differs from previous periods of increased tension in that both sides are making substantial and specific threats to strike the other if perceived necessary. In this kind of brinkmanship the potential for miscalculation is high, particularly relating to the assessment of what constitutes imminent hostile intent by the other side and their likely reaction to a given, potentially escalatory, action.

She prefaced that with “conflict is still unlikely” but if the potential for miscalculation is high, then conflict is not all that unlikely, is it.

Yoon Young-kwan, former South Korean foreign minister and professor emeritus in international relations of Seoul National University

…The biggest risks in a situation like this one are misunderstanding, misperception and overreaction. It’s crucial to lower the possibility of these three from occurring. The fact that both President Trump and Kim Jong Un share a leadership style that values unpredictability raises chances of misunderstanding and/or misperception. It is important that the U.S. does not push North Korea into a dead end so they feel they are left with no options. During the Cuban missile crisis, former president Kennedy made sure the U.S. didn’t box in Khrushchev in order to maintain peace. It is very concerning that there are divisions inside the Trump administration in policy toward North Korea.”

Yes it is.

I’m not seeing much “probably not” in this piece.

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