U.S., North Korea have few channels through which to resolve crises

Reuters reports: Washington and Moscow have over decades established mechanisms to prevent crises from spinning out of control, from hotlines to satellites and over-flights that allow the nuclear-armed adversaries to track each other’s military deployments.

No such safety nets exist between Washington and Pyongyang, worrying experts who say an accident, misstatement or erroneous reading by one side of the other’s actions could spiral into full-scale conflict even though neither side wants war.

Tensions have risen markedly in the past few days after North Korea warned Washington of a “severe lesson” following U.N. action against it and U.S. President Donald Trump in turn warning that any threats to the United States from Pyongyang would be met with “fire and fury.”

Trump’s unexpected remarks prompted North Korea to respond by saying it was considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Experts said there are limited channels through which the two sides can try to exchange proposals to ease tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

“We have some ad hoc and analogue ways of communicating with North Korea but we don’t have anything that has proven itself and can withstand the stress of crises,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a top non-proliferation adviser to former President Barack Obama.

The two sides have no diplomatic relations, so they have no embassies in each other’s capitals. They maintain contacts through their United Nations missions, their embassies in Beijing and meetings between military officers at Panmunjom, the location on the militarised frontier dividing the Korean Peninsula where the truce that stilled the 1950-53 Korean War was signed. [Continue reading…]

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