For years, the world has watched the advance of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, anxiously pondering one question: if Pyongyang finally gained the ability to threaten the U.S. mainland, would the regime become more aggressive? In July, the successful test of the first North Korean ICBM signaled that North Korea had crossed that critical threshold. This week’s threat against Guam marks a new model of coercion for North Korea, one whose implications stretch far beyond the small island territory.
There is no indication from U.S. official statements that they understood the red line existed. Analysts have warned that miscalculation and misperception could escalate tensions with North Korea into a war that no one wants. This week showed how that could occur. Correctly discerning and responding to this threat will be central to maintaining stability in the next critical weeks.This article was originally published in The Diplomat.