500,000 ROUNDS ON SEOUL IN THE VERY FIRST HOUR....
US military drills in South Korea have prompted a fresh round of threats from North Korea, with leader Kim Jong-un ordering that the military be on standby to hit the US mainland with missiles.
There's little concern that North Korea actually can target the US at the moment. What worries many is that the combination of the North's bellicose rhetoric, actions like its severing of a hotline, and Seoul's vow of retaliation, may be creating an environment where a serious misstep is possible.
As the Associated Press, which has a bureau in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, notes, most experts share the belief that North Korea is "years away" from nuclear-tipped missiles that could reach the US. Some even say there is no evidence it has conventional missiles that could do that.
But three naval clashes between the North and South since 1999, recent vows of retaliation from Seoul, and Pyongyang's possession of missiles capable of reaching both South Korea and Japan paint a picture of how smaller-scale clashes could easily happen, either deliberately or because of a misjudgment. The situation is also ripe for escalation, according to the AP.
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"The North can fire 500,000 rounds of artillery on Seoul in the first hour of a conflict," Victor Cha and David Kang wrote for Foreign Policy earlier this week.
NBC News reports that the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency wrote that the “opportunity for peacefully settling the [The Democratic People's Republic of Korea]-US relations is no longer available as the US opted for staking its fate. Consequently, there remains only the settlement of accounts by a physical means.”
Today's fighting words from Mr. Kim were prompted by a flyover in South Korea yesterday by American B-2 stealth bombers, which dropped dummy munitions. Similar threats were made earlier this week, but were not attributed to the leader, which adds weight to the most recent threats, The New York Times reports.