Carnegie NPP scholar Tong Zhao explains how the international community is facing two objectives: (1) increasing pressure to force North Korea to make major concessions, and (2) reducing the risk of a nuclear exchange incident with North Korea. Sometimes, Zhao explains, these two objectives work against each other; in order to persuade North Korea to make major nuclear concessions, North Korea must understand that the risk of a military strike against it is very high. At the same time, Zhao cautions, increasing the threat of a military strike also increases the chance of mistakes leading to incidental nuclear war.

The reason why the false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii was such an issue is precisely because it took place against a background of very high tensions. If it happened in peacetime, Zhao posits, most civilians would likely believe it to be a false alarm. Therefore, it is equally important to prevent an incidental nuclear war as it is to denuclearize North Korea.

This interview was originally broadcast by CGTN