Trump Administration

Only Threat From North Korea Is Situation Spiraling: SDSU Professor

The missile, launched Sunday morning in North Korea, exploded almost immediately, according to U.S. officials

The only real threat when it comes to North Korea following the country's recent missile launch - which exploded almost immediately - is the situation spiraling out of control, a San Diego State University (SDSU) professor and expert said. 

"In terms of imminent threat, I really don’t see it that way," said SDSU Public Affairs Professor Ric Epps. 

Epps, who has been following the conflict closely, said the failed launch was likely not planned, and probably an embarrassment to the country's leaders. 

The launch concerned some Americans, Epps said, but the move was likely a way for the country to show off its power than an actual threat, which he said could have serious consequences for the country. 

But Epps views the exploding missile, which was launched Sunday North Korea time, as a veiled threat, not an actual threat. Tensions always rise and fall at certain times, Epps said.

The test was carried out just hours after a large North Korean parade celebrating the birthday of the country’s founder (Kim Jong-un’s grandfather) that showcased the state's military might.

It is believed they used a medium-range or submarine launched ballistic missile. U.S. officials confirmed to NBC News that they detected the launch, and tracked it as it blew up almost immediately.

"It certainly does give people a moment of pause. But I think it’s one of these things, it’s just their way of trying to show their capacity – its like a deterrent to the west, a message," Epps said, adding that he certainly believed the launch was a foreign policy concern. 

There is a chance the situation could escalate, he said, depending on who flinches and who reacts. 

"It doesn’t mean it can’t happen it doesn’t mean you can’t escalate, things can’t escalate out of your control, and all of a sudden you have a bigger problem," he said. "But that means that, it requires, the United States also being very careful in how we conduct our operations there."

One way it could escalate, Epps said, is through what he called a security dilemma. Both sides involved start to escalate the arms race to counter each other, trying to avoid war, but in the quest to avoid each other, one ends up shooting first in the tension. The countries end up in an intended war, he explained. 

“The only real threat is it going out of control,” Epps said of the increased international tension. “You [need to] have both leaders understanding the context and the dynamic."

Epps said the Cuban Missile Crisis was a good example of that.

"You know you have the right players with Kennedy and Khrushchev in place to avoid a nuclear war,” he explained. “If you had the wrong people in place, you could easily wind up in a much more problematic scenario.”

An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to NBC News, said if it had been a nuclear test the U.S. would have taken other action.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Trump and his military team "are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."

In the past, North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, including two last year.

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