US warships and submarines are on the move. North Korea has carried out its largest ever live-fire drill. Washington and Pyongyang are trading inflammatory rhetoric on a weekly basis.
With all of this, it’s hard to know if war is actually imminent or if these are the growing pains of US President Donald Trump’s new administration figuring out how to deal with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Daily reports of the fragile situation fuel worries that war is imminent. North Korea released what it claimed were photographs of its artillery drills. But, has it really reached a point of no return?
Just one spark
Analysts fear the situation is a tinderbox that could be set off by a small spark.
“The real question now is somebody going to make a stupid mistake, because some kind of minor escalation could get out of hand,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation.
“It’s not so dangerous that I’m not going to go to (South) Korea in three weeks. But it is a dangerous situation that could get out of hand,” said Bennett.
However, even if a strategic miscalculation happened tomorrow, many experts believe war isn’t imminent.
If it was, the US armed forces would be placed on what is known as Defcon 2, according to Carl Schuster, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.
Schuster said such an announcement would be formal and public.
The US military would also step up training inside its borders and send a second aircraft carrier to East Asia – and carriers don’t move quickly.
US Pacific Command has said the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group is expected to be off the Korean Peninsula by the end of April, but it has not announced any other carrier movement.