Escalating tensions with North Korea have dominated the attention of foreign policy analysts and the press. Following strong rhetoric from the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea on Friday, the general consensus of experts and officials alike is one of cautious reserve.
The Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK released a statement Friday:
"The moves of the U.S. imperialists to violate the sovereignty of the DPRK and encroach upon its supreme interests have entered a grave phase... If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the KPA should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in south Korea, he said. He examined and finally ratified the plan of the Strategic Rocket Force for firepower strike."
The statement came in response to a joint military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea. A B-2 'stealth' bomber and multiple F-22 Raptors performed annual air drills within South Korean airspace. Seemingly interpreted by North Korea as unilateral aggression, the statement declared that any further provocation by the U.S. would be taken as an act of war and would prompt retaliation, potentially with nuclear weapons.
The prevailing consensus among North Korean experts, as described by The New York Times, is that the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un is using the charged language to shore up a popular appearance of standing up to the 'imperialist' United States.
The statements have been called 'nothing new' by South Korean officials, yet the nuclear test from February remains a cause for concern. The projected timeline for a nuclear attack-capable North Korea is three to five years, with no indication that the program will slow down.
The escalation in hostile rhetoric, however harsh, does not constitute a new page in the United States' relationship with the country as the Korean War never officially ended. Only a ceasefire was signed in 1953, not a peace agreement, known as the Korean Armistice Agreement. As the KCNA put it, "The situation in the Korean Peninsula, which is neither peace nor war, has come to an end.”
Cryptic and vague as usual, the DPRK's statements have caught eyes and ears the world over, but many remain skeptical that a serious conflict will result.