Trump's tough talk prompted North Korea to stand down, experts say

Tensions between U.S. and North Korea seem to have eased – at least for the moment.

Leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying in state media he will “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before deciding whether to send missiles against U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.

Some foreign policy experts say the tough talk from President Trump in the past week resulted in this, at least temporary, win.

KIM JONG UN APPEARS TO BACK DOWN AFTER MATtis, Trump warnings

“The administration is doing all the right things,” David Hemmings of the Henry Jackson Society told Fox News, “President Trump actually caught the regime off balance by using the same sort of rhetoric against them.” 

Others, however, say it was the tamping down of the rhetoric and the push for diplomacy and economic measures by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others that headed off the trouble.

“I expect it’s more of a diplomatic and political move by the regime,” said Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  

TRUMP'S STEALTH NORTH KOREA STRATEGY

But he and others say it also came down to North Korea being uncertain it could actually deliver on its threat to send those four missiles over Japan to a precise spot off of Guam. The risk of over-shooting and actually hitting Guam would trigger an instant war that Mattis warned of. 

“They have no idea of the reliability of these missiles,” David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists told Fox News.

Many see gains made to get China on board as significant. 

One expert thought that China actually told North Korea to back off the Guam plan. Others see the country’s agreement to cut off key imports following the UN Security Council Resolution as important.

“China has never agreed to these kinds of sanctions,” Hemmings said.

Experts say this is only a pause in the tensions. State media quotes Kim as saying that a decision to launch the missiles could be made if the U.S. “persists with its reckless actions.”

“I think he will wait to see how the exercises go,” Elleman told Fox News, referring to U.S.-South Korea joint maneuvers set to begin next week.

Experts agreed, however, that the risk of miscalculation remains high with the amount of rhetoric that has been thrown around in the last week from both sides. As Kim builds up his arsenal of missiles and nukes, a serious strategic misstep could result from such an error.  

“I hope cooler heads will prevail,” Wright said.

A lot of folks do.

Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.