North Korea has issued a threat of nuclear war against the United States and its ally, South Korea, in retaliation for even a misdirected shot fired in its direction during the war games being conducted by the U.S. and South Korean militaries. The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) issued the warning, saying that North Korea would reduce enemy bases "to ashes" with nuclear warheads if its territorial sovereignty is breached.
In a statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry, the parameters of what Pyongyang considered a provocation to resort to nuclear war were concisely laid out. In a report from the Daily Star, retaliation was promised for so much as "even a single bullet" being fired into the territory of the DPRK.
The statement from the Foreign Ministry reads as follows.
"The Korean People's Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people's happiness in case the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK."
The following day, Tillerson, speaking in South Korea, clarified what was meant by "new approach."
"The policy of strategic patience has ended," Tillerson said, according to the Korea Times. "We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, economic measures. All options are on the table."
When asked about potential military action, Tillerson said the U.S. would prefer to avoid an armed conflict with North Korea. But if Pyongyang were to "elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, then that option's on the table."
The back-and-forth between North Korea and the U.S. is nothing new. Nor is Pyongyang's threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States. In fact, prior to American and South Korean forces holding their joint military drills, which started on March 13, the DPRK issued a nuclear threat. In early March, according to The Independent, North Korea vowed to "mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword."
North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, have used the U.S. as a rhetorical punching bag for quite some time, using American ties with South Korea and its military as justification for Pyongyang's continued hostile military stance and pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. And there was no time wasted firing off hostile political rhetoric toward the newly-elected Trump administration, not to mention the test launches of several missiles that experts say was North Korea, which relies heavily on China for trade and military support, simply posturing for the new president.
Last week, North Korea fired off four ballistic missiles that landed in the sea off the coast of Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced, per NBC News, that "strong protests" had been lodged with North Korea concerning the "extremely dangerous action," noting that the launches were a violation of U.N. resolutions.
Despite all the sabre-rattling, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presented the United States' position, firmly stating that escalating tensions need not continue, but the U.S. was determined to see an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
"All options are on the table," he said. "North Korea must understand that the only path to a secure, economically prosperous future is to abandon its development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction."
[Featured Image by AFP Pool/AP Images]