As the Pentagon flies B-2 bombers over the Korean Peninsula and strengthens its missile-defense posture in the region, U.S. officials are steadily working the diplomatic channels around North Korea — in a bid to dial down tensions before things get “hotter.”

Analysts largely consider the biggest threat from North Korea’s daily provocations to be the possibility the regime could go too far in needling South Korea, prompting a military response that drags the U.S. and other allies into a broad conflict. Some have described that scenario as an “accidental” war — meaning diplomacy is key in preventing that outcome.

Newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry is dabbling in several agenda items including trying to unfreeze Middle East peace talks, but is planning a round of meetings with North Korea’s neighbors next week. He’s also held talks with South Korean and Chinese officials in recent days.

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