On Monday, South Korea and Washington launched an annual joint military drill that Pyongyang routinely describes as a rehearsal for an invasion. In response, North Korean officials have leveled serious threats against the United States. RT reports that a spokesman for North Korea’s National Defense Commission warned that it had weapons “unknown to the world” that made it an “invincible power,” while the state news agency KCNA warned that “if [the] United States wants their mainland to be safe” they should end the military exercises.
Why don’t we take threats from North Korea seriously? Part of it is a simple boy-who-cried-wolf situation. North Korea has threatened to attack the United States many, many times before. Here’s just a short list:
- In May, Park Yong Chol, director of North Korea’s Institute for Research into National Reunification, told CNN that the North has the capability to strike the United States with a nuclear missile, and would do so if the U.S. “forced their hand.”
- In February, officials warned that North Korea would cause the “final ruin of the US” with its “precision and diversified nuclear striking means.”
- In 2014, following an alleged North Korean cyberattack on Sony Pictures, a North Korean official threatened attacks on “the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland” if the United States retaliated.
- In 2013, North Korea warned it could attack Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland with rockets.
- In 2009, North Korea announced that it had “tremendous military muscle and its own method of strike able to conquer any targets in its vicinity at one stroke or hit the U.S. on the raw, if necessary.”
- In 2005, a North Korean official said that if war broke out, the country would “first of all strike all bases of US imperialist aggressors and turn them into a sea of fire.”
- In 2002, following their inclusion in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that “the option to ‘strike’ impudently advocated by the U.S. is not its monopoly” and that North Korea could “mercilessly wipe out the aggressors.”
Most experts still argue that a North Korean nuclear strike remains extremely unlikely. “There is a near zero chance of a premeditated North Korean nuclear attack,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told NK News earlier this year, though Kimball added that a miscalculation by either side could pose a serious risk.