Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. and South Korea rose to a new level on March 26 when Kim Jong Un ordered the nuclear rockets to be on standby.
This threat comes after B-2 Spirit bombers flew over South Korea in the annual training exercises, which have been going on for a few weeks. But a statement from the U.S. Forces Korea said the mission “demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will.” The bombers, which flew from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, have the capacity to carry conventional and nuclear-grade weapons.
The key hotline between North and South Korea was also cut off on March 27, perhaps the last symbol of international cooperation between the Korean nations.
North Korea has been under more intense watch since the nation launched a satellite into orbit in December 2012. The U.N. security council condemned this action, stating the launch violated the ban on ballistic missile tests. In a Reuter’s article, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said appropriate measures would be considered by the council.
“The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolutions,” Sung-hwan said.
Since then, North Korea has been put on watch, and the country is not pleased. With numerous sanctions on North Korea, including a refusal to trade, relations have declined rapidly. State-run agency KCNA reported Kim met with military leaders earlier in March and told them an attack is needed.
“If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, (we) should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea,” KCNA reported.
Kim’s attitude and behavior is a stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Kim Jong Il. Many experts in international relations see Kim’s behavior as erratic and think the threats may be directed to improve North Korean morale.
An article by the U.K.-based Independent cautioned that Kim may just be establishing himself as the new young leader of North Korea.
“Not only must the new ‘supreme leader’ see off challengers from within North Korea’s perhaps skeptical military; he must also prove to his brutalized, often starving, people that threats from ‘foreign imperialists’ must take precedence over, say, early promises of improved living conditions.”
A video released by KNCA demonstrated rockets being launched at many U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and even Washington D.C. Even though some military officials believe the North Korean nukes aren’t light enough to be launched by a missile, many controversial medium-range ballistic missiles can carry high-explosives hundreds of miles. Surrounding islands, including Japan, could be under threat, and a South Korean invasion is possible as well.
Most believe they are still years away from being ready to launch a nuclear warhead via a long-range missile, including Pentagon spokesman George Little. But he said the threat is real and that the U.S. should stay one step ahead of them.
“The important thing is for us to stay out ahead of what we think the North Korean threat is, especially from their missile program,” he said. “They’ve been testing more missiles, and they’ve been growing their capabilities, and we have to stay out ahead.”