North Korea Claims Nuclear War "May Break Out Any Moment" But Experts Aren't Holding Their Breath
Tensions flared once again after North Korea claimed nuclear war "may break out any moment" on Monday. The statement arrived from North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Nations Kim In Ryong during an appearance at the international committee this week. Kim also boasted of the country's "full-fledged nuclear power" in front of his global audience, but national security and East Asia experts tell Bustle that there is reason to take North Korean threats with a grain of salt.
Sun Yun — senior associate at the Washington D.C.-based policy research center Stimson Center — explains that such inflammatory rhetoric from the country isn't exactly a surprise.
Yun may be referring to past incidents of aggressive rhetoric from the East Asian country. In August, the North Korean government issued an eyebrow-raising statement:
The harsh vow for vengeance arrived after the United Nations imposed sanctions on the country for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.
A day after North Korea issued its statement, Donald Trump responded in similar abrasive fashion and said, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States" and that the country "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."
In spite of North Korea's display of all-bark and no-bite rhetoric, there is still reason to be worried, according to Yun. "The new element this time would be Trump's upcoming visit. Presumably, North Korea would want to stop Trump from visiting The Republic of Korea and showing support." Reports indicate that the president could be visiting the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea. "If [Trump] visits [the demilitarized zone], North Korea will likely retaliate with more provocation. But to launch a nuclear war is unthinkable and unlikely," Yun says.
Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Monterey, tells Bustle:
It would come down to how the Trump administration reacts, according to Lewis.
Lewis says the American president's explosive comments in response are "very dangerous."
Verbal salvo aside, North Korea boasts a rather large amount of short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The range of the country's intermediate missiles can reach about 4,500 kilometers, which could potentially reach American military bases in Guam. Some reports caution against panic though, saying that North Korea would have to have a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile.
In other words, the country needs to be skilled at miniaturization or the process of reducing an object's size. But analysts at The Defense Intelligence Agency claim that the country is already rapidly gaining expertise in miniaturization. For proof, analysts pointed to the country's intercontinental ballistic missile tests this year.
Although North Korea claimed that it tested a hydrogen bomb this year, the size of its explosive yield didn't meet H-bomb standards, according to experts. David Albright, international security expert and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, told The New York Times:
With these insights and North Korea's past in mind, it seems like the country may just be engaging in verbal controversy only — at least for now.