If diplomatic talks between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un don't produce any kind of agreement on the rogue state's nuclear weapons program, that could bolster Washington's appetite for military action, strategists warned.
The leaders are expected to hold a summit in late May or June following a tumultuous 2017 that saw both exchange heated insults against the backdrop of Pyongyang's frequent missile launches. While the anticipated meeting is considered a welcome respite from those escalating tensions, the stakes are high if it doesn't result in any progress on limiting the North's nuclear capabilities.
"If the North Korea-U.S. summit fails to conclude in an agreement, war risks will increase, exceeding previous levels, because of another failure of diplomacy," Alison Evans, deputy head of Asia Pacific country risk at IHS Markit, said in a Wednesday note.
Bilateral talks are expected to be complicated by the fact that the White House and Pyongyang hold different understandings of what it means to denuclearize.
Peace processes are generally seen as a test for diplomacy, so "when they fail, it is not just the specific peace process that has failed, it is diplomacy as a strategy that has failed," Bruce Jones, vice president and director of the foreign policy program at think tank the Brookings Institution, wrote in an April op-ed published on the Nikkei Asian Review.
Once decision-makers believe political settlements are unattainable, "then the logic of military solutions rises in salience," he continued.