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As if the potential for miscalculation were not severe enough, there is the matter of the newly anointed and completely untested North Korean leader, according to Bruce Bechtol, an associate professor at Angelo State University in Texas and a noted Korea scholar.

North Korea has for decades occasionally launched military provocations, he said, but they are carefully calibrated, generally appearing, at least at first, “to be relatively small, easily contained and quickly ‘resolved’ incidents.”

But the ability of Mr. Kim to get that calibration right is “questionable at best,” he said.

“He lacks the experience, the skill and the judgment that his father and grandfather had,” Mr. Bechtol told The Times.

“That is what makes escalation more likely,” he concluded.

The consequences of an all-out conflict don’t bear thinking about.

The North Koreans boast their massed artillery and rockets can fire 250,000 rounds per hour. American sources say the figure is 500,000. They can blanket a 37-mile swath of territory south of the DemilitarizedZone (DMZ) from coast to coast, putting Seoul easily in range.