North Korea threatened a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the U.S. Thursday as the U.N. Security Council prepares to vote on tougher sanctions against the country for continuing to pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest," the North's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement according to Reuters.
Pyongyang views the U.S.-South Korea military exercises in the region as a serious threat and has ramped up its rhetoric about nuclear action.
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and consulting firm, joined The Daily Ticker remotely from New Dehli to discuss whether Washington should be concerned about the North Korean threats.
"It is classic propaganda," he notes. "This is clearly meant to say in the sharpest terms they do not want U.S.-South Korean military exercises and they do not want further sanctions" by the U.N. Security Council.
That said, "they have been escalating fairly significantly over the last few weeks and it has come really fast and furious," says Bremmer.
North Korea launched its last nuclear test on Feb. 12 and has also undergone ballistic missile tests in recent months.
According to Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World, "Kim Jong-un has been in power for only 15 months, and he still needs time to consolidate his position among the four groups—the army, the security apparatus, the Korean Workers’ Party, and the Kim family circle—that constitute what we call 'the regime.'"
Chang considers Pyongyang's threat "saber rattling" and also attributes North Korea's belligerence to a regime change in South Korea.
"Pyongyang almost always engages in a provocation against South Korea within months of the inauguration of a South Korean president to test the new leader," Chang writes in an email. "South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office at the end of last month. So this time, North Korea may actually follow up on its threats, especially if that helps Kim rally the regime."
Bremmer says that if Kim Jong-un thinks he is going to pressure the U.S. to change course, "that is not going to work."
There is also real tension between China and North Korea, Bremmer notes. China has been North Korea's only global ally but Chinese officials have been working with the U.N. Security Council on North Korean sanctions. China agreed Thursday to a U.N. resolution to inspect all cargo to or from the upper Korean peninsula.
Bremmer was in China over the last couple of days and met with Chinese officials. "They wanted to make it clear that they hoped the U.S. recognized how much more the Chinese are trying to do to push the North Koreans," he says. "[And] they made it clear they don't really have a direct line to Kim Jon-un right now."
"That should worry us," Bremmer adds.
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