THE drums of war are banging loudly as North Korea escalates its threats against the United States.

US President Donald Trump has baited North Korea over Twitter warning it was looking for trouble while Pyongyang threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the US if provoked.

The two nations, which are locked in a war of words, have sparked fears a war could be on the horizon, reports news.com.au.

However, some argue the fear of war breaking out may be unfounded.

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Peter Hayes, an Honorary Professor at the Centre for International Security Studies at Sydney University and a leading expert on nuclear policy in the region, told news.com.au he didn't believe war would break out with North Korea.

Prof Hayes said it was true North Korea had demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities and had tested nuclear devices underground on five occasions, including twice last year.

"Overall, I would say that the risk of war remains low but has increased due to the possibility of mistakes, loss of control of forces, and misunderstandings," he said.

"Given the immense stakes, a tiny increase in probability is of concern and when it is needless, of even greater concern."

The executive director of the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley told news.com.au North Korea may not have a deliverable warhead and may not have a reliable ballistic missile delivery system with a usable re-entry vehicle.

President Donald Trump has been pressuring Chinese President Xi Jinping to take tougher action against ally North Korea. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump has been pressuring Chinese President Xi Jinping to take tougher action against ally North Korea. Photo / AP

"But it might, especially for short range missiles," he said.

"It certainly is testing missiles at a fast rate to try to get land based and sea based (submarine launched) intermediate range missiles that work well enough to threaten US and South Korea forces, and US bases in Japan with nuclear attack."

Speaking on Late Night Live last night, he also said there seemed to be a collective madness in the US regarding this issue but said he didn't believe we were about to go to war with North Korea.

"In reality we not about to go to war because it would require not only the assembly of one aircraft carrier, but a virtual armada of naval and ground forces," he said.

He also said the bigger concern was the US had moved from a policy of strategic patience under the Obama administration, which basically meant do nothing, to "doing s***" and no one knew what Mr Trump's strategy was yet.

The US has sent a warship to North Korea. Photo / AP
The US has sent a warship to North Korea. Photo / AP

Brendan Thomas-Noone, a research fellow in the Alliance 21 Program at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said the pace of North Korea's nuclear program has blindsided many analysts.

Mr Noone said North Korea has made progress on everything from more powerful engines to solid-fuelled rockets and the broad spectrum of technical progress pointed to an underestimation on our part of how effective sanctions against their nuclear program have been.

"Estimates of when North Korea will be able to test a missile that has the range to hit the United States has varied, but there is an emerging consensus among experts that it will be within two years," he said.

"The reality is that if they are able to test a missile that has the range to strike the continental United States, they will also have the range to hit Australia."

A North Korean soldier points his weapon while standing with other soldiers in Sinuiju, North Korea. Photo / AP
A North Korean soldier points his weapon while standing with other soldiers in Sinuiju, North Korea. Photo / AP

Mr Noone said there are few military options available for the United States and its allies and "no good military options on the Korean Peninsula regarding Pyongyang's nuclear program."

According to him, the biggest risk in all of this was one of miscalculation.

"Right now you have two leaders, President Trump and Kim Jong-un, who both feel emboldened," he said.

"If Trump were to follow through with his hints that he may give the order to shoot down any North Korean missile tests, it could lead to military escalation on both sides.

"Such a scenario is very hard to predict in terms of how far it would go, and whether it would spread to the region."