It has been building for months and right now the tension is tangible between North Korea and the United States.

Over the weekend, another tweet from President Donald Trump taunted Kim Jong Un and his Foreign Minister. It elicited a threat from North Korea to shoot down any U.S. warplanes flying in international airspace over the Korean Peninsula.

"We've not declared war on North Korea, and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd," assured White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

But are we close to a showdown with North Korea? What would that look like? Are we in danger in the Pacific Northwest?

"He's not suicidal. He's not a kamikaze or a jihadist. He wants to survive," said University of Washington political science professor Don Hellmann.

He has worked extensively in Southeast Asian politics and says Kim Jong Un's goal is prosperity. North Korea sees that through a nuclear lens. Its nuclear capability is progressing much more quickly than many thought it would. They have rockets, claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb, and will likely have the capability to strike a far distance away, if they don't already. But he says the odds a North Korea attack on the U.S. or its allies is minimal.

"We would retaliate. What will that mean? It would mean he's gone. He's dead," said Hellmann.

A nuke would more or less guarantee Kim a place at the table. But so far other nuclear powers, including the U.S., aren't pulling out a chair. Instead, they're using economic sanctions and threats as a deterrent, which don't seem to be working.

"You have carrots and sticks. You make threats and say let's do it this way," said Hellman. "What are the incentives?"

For starters he says, officially ending the Korean War, pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea, and bringing the North into the world economy. He says it's a much more drawn out conversation that requires patience and diplomacy, but it doesn't appear the Trump administration is interested.

"The whole issue is now defined as, we have a rogue crazy man with the capacity to blow us up. And we have a president who is threatening to blow them up without offering a diplomatic alternative, except to say we'll talk," said Hellman.

And while it may be too late to stop North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, Hellman says it's unfair to blame that on the current administration. He says every president back to Bill Clinton is to blame for not taking North Korea seriously enough and instead focusing their efforts on other world leaders.