North Korea is threatening to launch ‘indiscriminate’ nuclear attacks against South Korea and the U.S, as the two nations begin their largest joint military exercise ever.
The Telegraph reports that a statement, released by the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army, ordered a ‘pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice’ against the two allies.
But analysts say smaller-scale attacks are far more likely over the duration of the Foal Eagle and Key Resolve manoeuvres, which finish in late April.
An analyst for The International Crisis Group in Seoul, Daniel Pinkston, has pointed out that the U.S. has mobilised 15,000 troops for the drills, while South Korea is fielding a further 300,000 personnel.
Mr Pinkston said:
Primarily, this declaration is for the domestic audience and it feeds into the rhetoric surrounding the sacrifices their citizens are having to make. This is the wrong time for the North to attack.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Pinkston said that should North Korea use nuclear weapons or launch a pre-emptive attack: “The retaliation would be absolutely devastating and everyone would support that response – even China and Russia”.
Robert Dujarric, the director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at the Japan campus of Temple University, claims a nuclear first-strike would be ‘suicide’ for the regime of Kim Jong-un. But the rotund ruler does have other courses of action open to him.
There is the possibility of cyber-attacks against targets in the South or further afield, as we have seen in the past, they could carry out artillery bombardments of the South’s islands off the west coast of the peninsula, or they could arrest more American tourists and effectively hold them to ransom.
Just last month, North Korean state media showed footage of a tearful Frederick Otto Warmbier admitting to stealing a sign from his hotel in Pyongyang.
The threat of nuclear destruction comes just a few days after Mr Kim ordered his nation’s military to put its nuclear arsenal on standby for use ‘at any moment’, in response to tough new UN sanctions imposed two months after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and the launch of a rocket in February.
So World War Three, here we come, apparently.