By Paul HANDLEY
After North Korea's shock demonstration that it can strike the American mainland with an intercontinental missile, US officials say their focus remains on finding a diplomatic solution to avert a catastrophic conflict.
But with Washington reluctant to be seen to be rewarding Pyongyang, whose leader Kim Jong-Un has been taunting the "American bastards", can the two sides manage to sit down and thrash out their differences face to face?
Analysts and diplomats who are veterans of previous flare-ups in tensions between the two countries acknowledge there are huge obstacles in the way of talks -- not least because they have no diplomatic relations.
But they also say talks are not only possible but really the only viable solution, whether talking directly or via third parties -- including senior US politicians outside the Trump administration.
"The only way out here is diplomacy," said James Clapper, who spent years as a US intelligence chief in South Korea and was later Director of National Intelligence under Barack Obama.
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