North Korea and the U.S. don’t want to cross the red line that would provoke a counterattack. However, whoever surfs so close to the red line on a daily basis could cross it unintentionally.

Every day we experience a new round of verbal and practical provocations by the U.S. president and the North Korean ruler. And this, after they have already called one another mentally ill and senile, and pledged complete destruction of the other.

On Saturday, Donald Trump sent fighter planes to the edge of North Korean airspace. Subsequently, Kim Jong Un published a computerized video in which he let American jets, an aircraft carrier and even the White House go up in flames. He is considering the first above-ground nuclear test since 1980.

Trump Wants to Show Foreign Policy Strength

With good intentions, the behavior of both men can be construed as rational. Kim wants to solidify his rule and needs the ultimate weapon as life insurance. World powers will only take him seriously if he is a credible threat. In addition, the policies of his father have already demonstrated that trade concessions can be gained with the nuclear card. The 33-year-old is just following through on this game more aggressively and more consistently.

Trump, on the other hand, wants to at least appear strong in foreign policy after many domestic setbacks. One of his rules of negotiation is to show no weakness. That’s the way the 71-year-old did it as a real estate dealer in New York; he cemented this image in his television roles.

This power play would be tolerable if it were a matter of selling an office high-rise, but at the moment, the danger of a fatal mistake grows daily. Yes, Kim and Trump do not want to cross the red line that would provoke a counter attack – ultimately, no one would gain anything from a war. But whoever surfs along the red line so closely on a daily basis could cross it unintentionally.

With fighter planes too close to North Korean airspace, the push of the wrong button by an anti-aircraft operator could send a U.S. plane tumbling to the ground. That would be a concrete attack. In the same way, if Kim detonates a nuclear missile over the Pacific and a U.S. warship – or even just a Japanese fishing boat – came to be damaged, then concrete aggression would be present.

Nothing else would remain for Trump or Kim but to strike back. They owe that to the image that they have built for themselves as unyielding leaders, willing to resort to violence.