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Trump, North Korea Trade Escalating Threats Of Fire

August 9, 2017 1:34 p.m.

Trump, North Korea Trade Escalating Threats Of Fire


Tai Ming Cheung, director, University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

Related Story: North Korea Dismisses Trump's Threats, Warns Of "Absolute Force"


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS Midday Edition . I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Are the top story on the midday addition, the ongoing discussion about North Korea and the growing nuclear capability. It became real for Americans on Tuesday when a war of words broke out between North Korea and Donald Trump. New UN sanctions prop ended threats from North Korea which were met with threats from the president about the U.S. unleashing quote fire and fury like the world has never seen unquote. North Korea replied with a threat against the territory of Guam. And the meantime, Rex Tillerson has tried to calm the waters, urging renewed talks but yesterday's heightened rhetoric may have increased the danger of conflict in the area.Joining me is the director of the University of California Institute on global conflict and cooperation. Welcome to the program.Thank you for having me.The most recent statement is that North Korea is studying how to create loping fire in Guam. Is that a specific threat to a specific threat unusual to say ?It is not too different from the past statements. What it shows is that we are moving from what they have done in the past which is talking about general terms about nuclear deterrence. Now, they talk about developing strategy it is a approach where how do we use our weapons capability to fight the war. That is a different take itself. That is a more concerned take.President Trump use the language that seem to threaten a nuclear strike. Is that how North Korea and other Asian countries -- Asian countries will interpret his statements ?I am sure that will be within the leadership. Also, Tokyo and Beijing, there will be debates going on but I think if you are in , you take a more worry is some assessment of the international system. Words that come from President Trump and from the Defense Secretary itself, the will take it at the worst.UC San Diego helps organize a annual dialogue with the Asian countries. You were there this summer as diplomats from Russia and South Korea. Was this recent escalation anything that you could have predicted?A lot of discussions, where do we go from here? When we held the meeting, it was the first of the ICM test. What has come since then, especially report, those were some of the discussions that we had. Nothing what we have seen is new. The trend is increasingly accelerated. That is the concern, that we are going faster and faster in the spiral of tension and threats and counter threats.Rex Tillerson tried to calm the waters and claimed that there is no immediate threat and we should all sleep soundly. What is the immediate danger for the U.S. cities on the west coast and Guam. Is there an immediate danger ?There is no immediate danger because they have not tested the nuclear capabilities. The missile test is still quite some ways away. They do not have the accuracy or the reentry technologies. Those are all a matter of whether it is months or a couple of years away. The main concern is what does that U.S. and the allies do? Do they take reactive action? You read President Trump, that is one way to interpret that. That is the main concern. Do we try to stop the North Koreans in terms of capabilities by doing something preemptively?The Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea has advanced. Intelligence sources say they have made a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile. Do you believe those reports are accurate ?Yes. We have heard this from various sources. The North Koreans have not actually tested one. We know that they have the ability. The question is, will they test.This back and forth between Washington andstarted with increasing sanctions against North Korea. China and Russia sided with the U.S. in that decision. How much of an ally do you think China will be in diffusing tension?It is in China's interest to try to prevent the escalation from getting out of control. The Chinese, it was an important move to compromise because they were quite skeptical about that.I think that at the end of the day, the Chinese have their own interest with North Korea. I do not think they completely align with that U.S. over the long-term., They do not want to completely isolate the North Koreans. This is why the UN sanctions came short of having that for example. In a broader relationship, there is more strategic competition and distrust. I am not sure the Chinese and the U.S. over the long-term see eye to eye on North Korea.Do you think this heightened rhetoric at this heightened risk is the new normal between the U.S. and North Korea?I think it is. You have a president who is inexperienced on our side, who seems to be using the same rhetoric as the North Koreans. They may be doing this for many years. The key thing is to be the center of attention. The more that they get the threats, the more they will use this to rally their country and push ahead. I think this is a dangerous pattern.I have been speaking with Tai Ming Cheung, the director of the use -- university of California. Professor, thank you.Thank you for having me.