While President Trump was engaged in an uncomfortable dance around condemning white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, North Korea quietly walked back a threat to launch missiles in the direction of American bases on Guam.
That's no coincidence. Experts think this deescalation — what analyst Robert Carlin calls "a decisive break in the action" — happened in part because the president's focus has been on Charlottesville since Friday night.
"The media (and the president) was distracted over the weekend, which gave some breathing space for the situation," Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins, tells me.
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That's because Trump's own statements — such as his vow to respond to threats from Pyongyang with "fire and fury like the world has never seen" — were partly to blame for the increased tensions between the two countries. But as soon as the Charlottesville story broke, Trump stopped talking about North Korea. And sure enough, things calmed down almost immediately.
This doesn't mean the North Korea crisis is over — US-South Korea military exercises, scheduled to begin August 21, have the potential to reignite the conflict, as North Korea sees them as little more than a dress rehearsal for an invasion.
But it does mean, amazingly enough, that a US domestic crisis has made a war with North Korea marginally less likely — merely by taking away the president's attention.
"The lack of new Trump salvos at the North does lower the risk of miscalculation," says Laura Rosenberger, who was the National Security Council director for Korea and China in the Obama administration.
"But the long-term strategic threat is still the same, and getting more serious by the day," she adds. "And that's why having a coordinated policy not driven by Trump's statements and Twitter feed is so critical."