TOKYO — Back in 1976, all it took to bring the Korean Peninsula back to the brink of a war was a brawl over an attempt to trim a poplar tree. That escalated quickly into the death of two American GIs by axe-wielding North Korean soldiers. Three days later, with an aircraft carrier battle group and nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at the ready, the tree was chopped down.
For sure, the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Koreas is one of most volatile strips of Cold War-style weirdness left on the planet. And on Friday it was weirder than usual — with President Donald Trump's new top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, standing on one side of the North-South demarcation line with his coterie and North Korean soldiers standing just a meter (a few feet) away.