PHOENIX -- Roe Goddard with the Thunderbird School of Global Management said there's a lot of heated rhetoric and sabre rattling coming out of North Korea and it won't take much to spark a major conflict in that region.
"Given what's a stake and the alignment of forces there, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is to be taken seriously. He's young, untested and it's difficult to separate bluster from potential for action. The United States and South Korea lack good intelligence on who has the finger on the trigger and who is making the major decisions."
Goddard, an associate professor of international political economy, believes China could be the eventual peacemaker. China does not want a stepped-up U.S. military presence in the region.
"That's what every American is hoping for. That China in western eyes will become a responsible partner and tell Kim Jong Un that enough is enough. But any escalation between North Korea and the United States will inevitably involve China and could bring the U.S. and China head to head and that would be economically devastating.
"I'm concerned that the U.S. could be overwhelmed by a million man army, with less than 30,000 troops in South Korea, would resort to tactical, lower megaton nuclear weapons."
Goddard said North Korea is cornered and that ratchets up the danger.
"They're isolated because of heavy sanctions and the hunger growing. They can't purchase many imported products. They're cornered economically, politically and militarily. They don't have much to lose and might feel the only way to get the worlds attention is to bargain using their conventional military forces."