Otto von Bismarck, the ever quotable Chancellor of the Second Reich, predicted in 1888 that “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.” I have long thought the same on a global scale about North Korea and Iran, where military power is wielded by regimes that seem to view rationality as a cardinal sin.
SEOUL — North Korea dramatically escalated its warlike rhetoric on Thursday, warning that it had authorised plans for nuclear strikes on targets in the United States.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the North Korean military said, warning that war could break out “today or tomorrow”.
Pyongyang’s latest pronouncement came as Washington scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defences, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam and dispatching two Aegis class destroyers to the region.
Tension was also high on the North’s heavily fortified border with South Korea, after Kim Jong-Un’s isolated regime barred South Koreans from entering a Seoul-funded joint industrial park on its side of the frontier.
In a statement published by the state KCNA news agency, the Korean People’s Army general staff warned Washington that US threats would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”.
“The merciless operation of our revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” the statement said.
Last month, North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States, and last week its supreme army command ordered strategic rocket units to combat status.
But, while Pyongyang has successfully carried out test nuclear detonations, most experts think it is not yet capable of mounting a device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.
Mounting tension in the region could however trigger incidents on the tense and heavily militarised border between North and South Korea.