North Korea has threatened a nuclear strike on "the heart of the US."
Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has warned the US of dire consequences if the United States attempts to remove Kim Jong Un as the Supreme Leader.
The relationship between the US and North Korea has always been fractious. The nation, which has isolated itself from the rest of the world, shares bilateral relations largely with just China and Russia. During the war between North and South Korea in 1950, US forces successfully intervened on behalf of South Korea. To this day, there are 28,500 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in South Korea as part of United States Forces Korea (USFK).
North Korea views the United States as its greatest threat. The distrust is mutual as former US President George W Bush referred to North Korea as part of the “Axis of Evil.”
US has become increasingly worried about the threat posed by North Korea since the nation started testing nuclear weapons. North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 (atomic bombs) and twice in 2016 (reportedly hydrogen bomb).
In July 2017, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile launch (ICBM) that can reach Alaska. The state media called it a “gift” for America.
President Donald Trump has said that US was considering a “very severe” response to North Korea. He has also repeatedly put pressure on China to neutralize this threat.
Recently, Marine General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that he would not rule out a military conflict with North Korea. Noting that while a war would be “horrific,” he believed that it was his duty to protect the people of the United States.
Up until now Pyongyang did not have the technology required to launch a nuclear weapon at the US. However, according to a report from the Washington Post, the country will soon have an intercontinental missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon by next year. The report cited a confidential assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
This makes the North Korea’s threat of a nuclear strike more credible and perilous. Kim Jong Un became the Supreme Leader in 2012 after his father, Kim Jong-il, passed away. According to KCNA, the North Korean Foreign Ministry has said, “Should the US dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the US with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time.”
Our assessment is that the US is running out of options in dealing with an increasingly combative North Korea. An open war will be a threat to South Korea, a US ally and China and Russia will oppose it. There is also an added risk that some of the fissile material might find its way to a terrorist organization who might be tempted to use it in a large city.