No one — at least no one outside North Korea — will argue North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is unpredictable, if not unstable.
And he's working to achieve a goal of nuclear-armed missiles.
To say that's a volatile mixture is to define the word understatement.
In what arguably is the most difficult overseas threat to the United States and its allies facing the administration of President Donald Trump, North Korea continues to launch missile tests, thumb its nose at pressure to stop, and make threats, including threats against the United States.
Where does this end?
Today, the answer to that question is as murky as the view from outside North Korea is of life inside the secretive country. Troubling doesn't begin to describe this tension-filled standoff for which no simple answers exist.
As America and other nations, including China, strategize (together, we hope) about North Korea, we prefer to hear measured instead of aggressive rhetoric from our leaders here at home.
In our view, saber-rattling serves no useful purpose in dealing with Kim. Certainly, American power is no secret to him; we don't need to flex our military muscles, they speak for themselves.
In other words, we see little to no upside, but a possibly dangerous, provocational downside to remarks like this one, offered by President Donald Trump in an April 27 interview with Reuters: "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely."
Rather, we believe more potential value exists in the kind of talk we heard from Trump during an interview with Bloomberg News on May 1 when the president said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim face to face "under the right circumstances."
We cringed at use of the word "honored," but we do not dismiss altogether the idea of a high-level meeting of some kind between U.S. and North Korean leaders (as well as leaders of other nations in the region because this isn't only America's problem) at some future point if it would reduce nuclear stress and uncertainty.
Of course, a spectrum of considerations would require discussion before any such meeting happens.
Nuclear weapons raise stakes. Nuclear weapons in the hands of someone like Kim raise them still more. In response, nations involved in and impacted by this dispute, including the U.S., should seek to turn down the heat and pursue constructive dialogue. The alternatives are, frankly, unthinkable.
This editorial appeared in the May 11 edition of the Sioux City Journal, another Lee Enterprises publication.