Soldiers and artillery on display during a military parade to mark the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in mid-April 2012
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are running high, as the government of North Korea issued new threats against the United States and South Korea. In this latest instance of nuclear saber-rattling, the regime of Kim Jong-un said it was prepared to launch a preemptive strike that would turn America’s capital into a “sea of flames.” This escalation of war rhetoric by North Korea was in response to tighter economic sanctions passed by the United Nations Security Council in early March. The UN was itself reacting to the most recent nuclear test by North Korea, which took place in February. China, the country with the most influence over North Korea, joined in voting for the latest economic sanctions, which are aimed at preventing North Korea from funding the continued development of its nuclear program.
The North Korean government called the new sanctions an “act of war” and declared the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953 to be null and void. This armistice has stood for nearly 60 years. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, stated that Pyongyang had nothing to gain “by continued threats and provocations.” Military experts consider North Korea’s statements “bluster” or bluff, but they do acknowledge that the regime possesses the capability to reach U.S. territory with a missile, albeit not one with a nuclear warhead. Not yet.
Pentagon spokesmen emphasized the readiness of the United States to face any threat and to defend its allies. Amid the flare-up, the U.S. and South Korean armed forces are conducting their annual joint exercises. The two allies announced they had reached a “counter-provocation plan” to guide their joint response to any military move by North Korea.
Image credit: ã PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images
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