More North Korean Saber Rattling

North Korea is continuing its saber rattling in the wake of an apparent agreement on new UN sanctions:

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Thursday threatened for the first time to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea, issuing the warning as the United Nations was preparing tough new sanctions over its nuclear program.

The threat from the North Korean Foreign Ministry came hours before the United Nations Security Council was scheduled to meet on the sanctions, which are  aimed at squeezing the international financing of the already isolated regime in Pyongyang.

Calling such sanctions “an act of war,” North Korea has sharply escalated its threats against the United States and its allies in the last few days, declaring the 1953  armistice that stopped the Korean War null and void and threatening to turn Washington and  Seoul into “a sea in flames” with “lighter and smaller nukes.”

The combative country had often warned that it had the right to launch pre-emptive military strikes against the United States, which it claimed was preparing to start a war on the Korean Peninsula. On Thursday, it ratcheted up its hostile language by talking about pre-emptive nuclear strikes for the first time, citing  the ongoing joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises as a proof that the Americans and their allies themselves were preparing for “a nuclear war aimed to mount a pre-emptive strike” on North Korea.

“Now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country,”  a spokesman of the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a Korean-language statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. He used the acronym for his country’s official name, Democratic People’s republic of Korea.

The spokesman said that North Korea was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War — and its military was free to “take military actions for self-defense against any target any moment” — starting from Monday, when it declared the cease-fire was terminated.

The resolution the United Nations was about to adopt to impose more sanctions against the North “will compel the DPRK to take at an earlier date more powerful second and third countermeasures as it had declared,” the spokesman added, without elaborating.

“Given that it has become difficult to avert the second Korean war,” he added. “The DPRK strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950.”

In the past, whenever the United Nations considered more sanctions, North Korea’s typically strident rhetoric had grown harsher with threats of war. The threats were just that, and analysts said the message was meant as much for its home population, to whom they said the young leader Kim Jong-un sought to  inspire a sense of crisis, as it was meant to unsettle the region to force Washington to engage it with concessions.

Photos filed by news agencies from Pyongyang and carried in South Korean media Thursday showed buses covered with military camouflage and university students rushing out of their classroom building in military uniforms in a military exercise.

Few analysts believed that North Korea would launch a military attack at the United States, which would be suicidal for the regime. But officials in Seoul feared that North Korea might  attempt an armed skirmish to test the military resolve of Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, who took office less than two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, in an uncharacteristically  blunt  response to North Korea’s threat, a South Korean army general called a news conference and warned that if provoked, South Korea would strike back at the top North Korean military leadership. The two Koreas’ front-line units exchanges artillery fire after North Korea launched a barrage against a South Korean border island in 2010.

In the same year, 46 South Korean sailors were killed when their navy corvette sank in an explosion the South blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.

I guess it’s time to start paying attention to the Korean Peninsula again.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    North Korea on Thursday threatened for the first time to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea,

    Hey, I got this great deal for you on a parking lot right on the border of China. It’s sure to make millions what with all those Chinese buying cars and needing a place to put them.

  2. CB says:

    And to think, at the outset, there was hope of Jong Un moderating. 50 more years of this sounds just great.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    I wonder what Rand “Obama is just like Hitler” Paul thinks about targeting this Korean A-Hole with a Hellfire missile???

  4. Gustopher says:

    Again I ask, “Are there no North Korean generals with a pistol and the opportunity to shoot Kim Jun Un in the back of the head?”

    Wouldn’t the Chinese prefer a stabler client state? Why haven’t they taken care of this problem? Have we asked the Chinese to do so, nicely?

  5. rudderpedals says:

    Here’s hoping someone’s made it clear to Beijing that it alone is responsible for its puppet’s actions.

  6. JKB says:

    Gives a whole new meaning to living in “fly-over” country. Although, in this case, fly-over country is Canada.

    On the other hand, China is trying to assert itself in the “First Island Chain” of which the Korean Peninsula is an anchor point so they have a vested interest in solving the North Korea problem. Of course, a success would mean China is being successful in their move away from their mainland.

  7. JKB says:


    Or what, we’ll stop selling China US government debt?

  8. John D'Geek says:

    If China’s on board with the latest sanctions, they won’t be protecting North Korea — they’re done with them. And since we’re technically still at war with North Korea, POTUS doesn’t need any permission from anyone.

  9. matt says:

    @JKB: China started divesting USA debt long ago. The amount of debt owned by the Chinese is tiny..