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Alarm bells ringing as US continues to up the stakes

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-12-04 21:02

A week after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea tested its most sophisticated and powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date, the United States and the Republic of Korea began joint air force exercises on the Korean Peninsula on Monday.

The drill reportedly involves some of the US' most advanced military hardware, including F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, and perhaps B1-B bombers.

However, the power disparity in favor of the US and the ROK is unlikely to put a break on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

After launching that widely condemned ICBM in defiance of United Nations sanctions, Pyongyang is now accusing the US and ROK of pushing "the already acute situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war" and saying they will "pay dearly for their provocations".

With neither side indicating any willingness to give the "dual suspension" proposal, aimed at creating an environment conducive to talks, serious consideration, the brinksmanship between the US and the DPRK is set to continue, and escalate.

There is real danger in the game they are playing, as the bellicose posturing between the US and DPRK leaders is raising the stakes to the point where they are putting their own futures as leaders on the line. With both counting on the other to fold, that is high-stakes play that risks misjudgment and conflict, and puts regional stability in jeopardy.

As unappealing as it may appear to them as they grandstand for their respective audiences, the best bet for both would be declaring a willingness to negotiate.

The rest of the international community can help in this regard. The imperative task they share is to make sure everything spelt out in the UN Security Council resolutions is honestly implemented. They can lower the stakes by demonstrating unity and thereby sending the unmistakable message that UN sanctions will be carried out to the letter and be sustained.

For their part, the stakeholders should consult with one another, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday. Unilateral actions, especially if they create discord among stakeholders, will only embolden the two principal players to up the ante even higher.

The message the leaders of the two countries keep sending one another is nuclear war is imminent and that is what the world keeps hearing and fearing.

Yet that nightmare scenario remains unlikely. More likely is the US keeps applying pressure in the hope the situation keeps deteriorating on the current track until the current regime in the DPRK collapses. This would produce a chain reaction of consequences that are both possible and probable, and really should be feared if the two main players continue to play their dangerous game.

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