October 24, 2020

North Korea: Much more than just bluff and bluster?

The North’s outlandish nuke threats may be cover for a more limited act of aggression

Pyongyang’s threats to carry out “a preemptive nuclear strike of justice” and that “all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment” in response to the current joint U.S.-ROK military exercises appear to be standing operating procedure for North Korea. White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated that the “comments and provocative actions … are not new” while CNN noted that “North Korea's bellicose words are typical around the time of annual military exercises.”

While this is all true enough, Pyongyang has periodically demonstrated a steely resolve to move the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war. Since Kim Il Sung’s famous miscalculation of President Harry Truman’s own resolve in 1950 – partially abetted by some intemperate remarks by Truman’s then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson omitting the Korean Peninsula from the defense perimeter of the United States – Pyongyang has repeatedly carried out bloody strikes against both the United States and its South Korean ally.