North Korea has delivered a threat which is being taken more seriously than the usual anti-US rhetoric. The North has said all field artillery, including long-range and strategic rocket units, is now in “combat duty posture No. 1”. Pyongyang’s order targeting American military bases on Guam, Hawaii and the mainland United States came after at least one US strategic bomber – of a type which has nuclear capacity – flew over the Korean peninsula.
A propaganda video simulation of Washington under attack may represent little more than wishful thinking by Pyongyang, but North Korea today can threaten all of South Korea and parts of Japan with its conventional missiles and its troops.
It is not believed to have the capability to hit the continental USA with an atomic weapon (yet), but the American military’s bases in the Pacific Ocean are in range of the North Koreans’ missiles.
Last week the US and South Korea reinforced their military cooperation pact. The Americans are pledging troops to support Seoul in case there’s even minor trouble from Pyongyang. This Combined Counter-Provocation Plan, as it’s called, has infuriated the North, on top of the B-52 flyover and joint US-South exercises.
According to the Defence Ministry in Seoul, in the past, South Korean troops were unilaterally in charge of any armed action against the North, and US troops would engage only if a full-scale war broke out.
The US promise of a nuclear umbrella for the South follows Pyongyang’s third nuclear test and two long-range rocket launches recently. It therefore seems to be getting closer to being able to launch a missile that could threaten the continental United States.
North Korea has said it no longer considers valid an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, and does not care about UN sanctions.
Pak Kwang Ho, a Pyongyang official with the North Korean Supreme Court said: “Since the war we have been subjected to sanctions and pressure. Let them go on. Frankly, our satellite launch and nuclear testing all came from our own technology, strength, resources and materials. We’re not worried.”
A North Korean defector has said UN sanctions won’t make a difference for ordinary people already suffering extreme hardship in his country, and who face either starving to death or being shot by the communist regime. He says any foreign food aid goes into the mouths of the North’s soldiers and its elite.