North Korea appears to be planning a satellite launch, something that has ruined multiple previous dialogues between the US and Pyongyang before.
Satellite launches use the same technology that ballistic missile use, so it's a sneaky way that North Korea has gotten around previous agreements, but the US likely won't stand for it.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump appears to be preparing for war with North Korea, and the satellite launch could be the jumping off point.
Despite a visible and encouraging thaw in relations between North and South Korea, Pyongyang appears to be readying a move that could torpedo upcoming talks with the US, and potentially bring about an all-out war.
The launch in question isn't a missile launch, which has often stoked tensions before, but a satellite launch, and it demonstrates how fraught talks between the US and North Korea have become.
Time and time again, the US and North Korea have entered into talks with the goal of denuclearization, but more often than not, North Korea blows up the deal by launching a satellite vehicle. While past agreements between North Korea and the US have prohibited missile testing, negotiators in Pyongyang have cleverly exploited the fact that the agreements don't touch on space programs.
Launching a satellite into Earth's orbit requires much of the same technology that North Korea uses to launch a ballistic missile, and potentially a nuclear warhead. So the US has always rejected this cleverness and abandoned multiple rounds of talks with North Korea after satellite launches.
But now, as North Korea prepares to meet face-to-face with a sitting US president for the first time in history, experts assess it's working on another satellite launch.
"Pyongyang and Washington's position on their satellite launches are radically different, and thus a crisis may arise once again and one cannot say it will not end up with a war," Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, told NK News.
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Cheong said that North Korea will likely launch the satellite "somewhere around the celebrations surrounding their 70th anniversary on September 9" of this year, and that the US "will respond with sanctions" and "then North Korea may respond with an even stronger nuclear test."
Specifically, Cheong referred to North Korea's repeated threat to launch a missile over the Pacific, and detonate its strongest-ever nuclear warhead in the air.
Cheong said overall the chance of war was low as talks go on due to a lack of international support for fighting, but if North Korea causes an atomic explosion to blackout and radiate a large swath of the Pacific ocean, the world may galvanize against it.
Trump not ready for talks, but may be ready for war
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President Donald Trump's incoming national security advisor, John Bolton, is a noted hawk on the North Korea issue and has all but dismissed the talks before they can even begin.
Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Trump couldn't have properly prepared for his upcoming summit with Kim Jong Un, and that it could end in disaster.
"Usually you want the summit to come at the end, after you've had a year of negotiations," Cha said. Instead, with almost no diplomatic or official contact with North Korea, Trump unilaterally agreed to take the meeting which has already boosted Kim's profile.
Cha said the worst-case scenario for the talks "is that they walk out of this thing angry at each other, with deflated expectations, and then there's no place left to go after that because you've used your biggest card."
Bolton "would have a very big role in organizing and orchestrating what's talked about," according to Cha, and "he will allow this summit to take place but really be focused on not taking the pressure off in terms of sanctions."
Cha knows the administration's North Korea policy well, as he spent almost a year interviewing to become the US ambassador to South Korea, but says he was passed up when he went against the administration when he refused to endorse military strikes on North Korea.
Bolton, on the other hand, consistently makes the case for bombing North Korea.
With the US unprepared, yet determined to go hard on North Korea, and Pyongyang apparently planning a provocative launch, there's a real possibility the talks could backfire and bring an all out war.