Take Two®

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Want to ease US-North Korea tensions? Stop talking, expert says.

by Austin Cross and Josie Huang | Take Two®

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center), inspecting a defense detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet in a photo published by state media. /AFP/Getty Images

The heated rhetoric between President Trump and North Korea continued to mount this weekend. At a Friday rally in Alabama, Trump aimed at the country's leader once again:


"Rocket Man" is Trump's nickname for leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea made its feelings known Sunday, by way of a propaganda video. It features digital images of North Korean missiles hitting an American aircraft carrier:

Meanwhile, in the U.S., President Trump capped the weekend by expanding his travel ban to include North Korean citizens.

So, where exactly do relations stand between the two countries this morning?

David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at USC, says the dynamic might seem more fraught but little has changed:

Fundamentally, we are in the same place that we've always been. The key part of Trump's phrase, which we often ignore, is the first part: 'if North Korea attacks first.' It's not a pledge to unilaterally or preemptively strike North Korea — and the North Koreans respond the same way. 

We miss that part as well: 'If you attack us first, we may have to take you out.' 

The rhetoric is heated and flamboyant — that's our president — but fundamentally, he's not saying anything different than previous presidents have said. 

Kang adds that, if the two countries truly wanted to cool recent tensions, both leaders must simply stop provoking one another:

The first thing I'd say to both sides is: 'Just stop talking.' It's still taunting each other. No one's started shooting, but the taunting doesn't help. Every day we wake up and neither side seems to have the ability to just stop talking and responding to what is clearly just muscle-flexing, macho threats to each other. 

Press the blue play button above to hear more on how the two countries could de-escalate the current tensions. 

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