The problem with the aggressive brinkmanship by the US over the North Korean Missile crisis of 2017 is that it's so easy to 'slither over the brink', not least when the man on the brink happens to be President Donald Trump. The point of the gunboat diplomacy, military drills and deployment of THAAD to South Korea is to force a peace.
Yet it depends on a return of President Nixon's 'Madman Theory' of war, the idea that US credibility, that 'we really mean it', is to be achieved by the readiness in unleashing US bomb power to force the Great Powers to negotiate the fate of smaller ones, as did Kissinger over Vietnam in the 1970s, and leave the lesser fried less leeway.
Trump's threatening war to get China to bring maximum pressure to bear on China, still officially treaty bound to North Korea, to desist from its nuclear programme, now trumped up as an imminent possible threat to California. The more he ramps up the rhetoric, the more he needs a deal to take away from his 'bullying'.
But the idea China really does have that much leverage over North Korea is a myth and if it fails to meets Trump's standards of artful dealing with Pyongyang, then Trump could 'up the ante' to even higher levels that raise Chinese fears of destabilisation and so its own attempts to deter Trump and 'get him to the table'.
The capacity for misunderstanding of one another's motives, in a spiral of warmongering paranoia, opens up a potential for misinterpretation and a potential catastrophe. North Korea might have nothing to lose in ratcheting up the aggression and nuclear missile threats further in abject fear of renewed Korean War.
Bruce Cumings has made plain that threats of US bombing are really taken seriously in the retarded Cold War time and space capsule that is North Korea; its society was rebuilt and militarised after US bombing destroyed its urban centres almost entirely in the war between 1950-53, involving widespread napalm use on civilians.
Pyongyang remembers this history viscerally and will see Trump's threats as less of a diplomatic game but as an actual rehearsal for war and a repeat of the Korean War, even involving nuclear weapons use. After all, Trump venerates General MacArthur, who was fired by Truman for advancing the idea of A-Bomb use on Manchuria.
North Korea has always used nuclear missile tests as its way of trying to gain attention and extract concessions diplomatically. But if Pyongyang misinterprets Trump's moves to mean it no longer has anything to lose, this crisis could really boil over and China might intervene to deter Washington in ways that humiliate Trump.
After all, China fears THAAD is also about encircling it through US clients from East China Sea down to the South China Sea with an anti-ballistic system that downgrades its own nuclear deterrent's potential. Treating XI as though he were a pliant junior partner to solve North Korea could be resented as 'loss of face' too.
Jenkins appears far too sanguine about the possibility this Kissinger style diplomacy could yield peace, not least because McMasters, Tillerson and Trump are potentially as ruthless as Nixon and Kissinger were but without their ability to use secret back channel diplomacy and also because of Trump's arrogant open 'public diplomacy'