Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

What Southern Californians should know about the war of words between the US and North Korea

by Libby Denkmann | Take Two®

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Painted Propaganda, showing North Korean children in armed services uniforms attacking U.S., Japanese and South Korean soldiers, hangs in a room inside a Pyongyang kindergarten. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) David Guttenfelder/AP

Verbal sparring between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea has escalated this week.

Rhetoric began to heat up after the U.N. Security Council approved a new round of sanctions targeting North Korea's nuclear program on Saturday.

On Monday, North Korea's official state news agency said, "there is no bigger mistake than the United States believing that its land is safe across the ocean," according to reports

Then, President Trump issued a warning on Tuesday after reports surfaced that North Korea had developed a compact nuclear warhead, ahead of the expected timeline for the country to reach that capability milestone. Trump addressed the North Korean leader directly, saying threats to the United States would be met with "fire and fury."

Hours later, Pyonyang doubled down, announcing it was considering a strike on Guam that would create "an enveloping fire" around the Pacific island.

Wednesday morning, Rex Tillerson spoke to reporters while his plane was stopped in Guam to refuel. The Secretary of State struck a calming tone.

"I do not believe there is any imminent threat, in my own view,” Tillerson said. He later said, “Americans should sleep well at night. I have no concerns about this particular rhetoric over the last few days"

David Kang is a professor of International Relations and Business at USC. He follows the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. He joined A Martinez on Take Two Wednesday.

What do you make of the latest round of tough talk and warnings between the U.S. and North Korea? 

It's a little bit more elevated on our side. But this is all basically what we've done before. The thing that's always missed about the Guam incident, is North Korea always says "if you attack us first, we will take you out." And that's what they said about Guam. That was not a threat to fire first. And of course, the U.S. consistently says, "if North Korea attacks first, we will respond." So Trump was a little bit more colorful than most, but essentially deterrence is still solid on both sides. 

I think most people want to believe this is bluster, and not real threats.

I'm not even sure if I would call it 'bluster,' because that means it's not real. It's communicating. It's diplomacy, although both sides could use calmer rhetoric. They are reminding us that they'll fight back, and we believe them. We remind them that we'll fight back, and they believe us. That's why deterrence has held for almost 70 years. 

To hear the full interview, please click on the blue media player at the top of the screen.

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