Responding to tough talk from the United States administration of Donald Trump, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un promised on Thursday to “reduce” the United States, as well as South Korea, “to ashes” in what an official North Korea government news outlet described as a “super mighty pre-emptive strike” against the two countries.
At the same time, military experts warn that despite a recent series of strong statements from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, there is very little the United States can do to bring the nuclear threat from North Korea under control without risking a massive and highly destructive war.
Trump last week called threats from North Korea “a problem,” but promised — without offering detail — that “the problem will be taken care of.”
Pence, on a visit to Asia this week, spoke at the border between the Republic of Korea — better known as South Korea — and the North, which is officially named the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In his brief comments at the heavily guarded border, the U.S. vice president warned North Korea that “the era of strategic patience is over.”
In a statement published Thursday in the Rodong Sinmun, the official news outlet of North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party, making the paper essentially a mouthpiece for the views of Kim, the country’s government responded to the U.S. rhetoric.
“In the case of our super-mighty pre-emptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the US mainland and reduce them to ashes,” the statement read.
The threat, however, was not the first time that North Korea has promised to destroy its neighbor to the south, as well as to launch a devastating attack against the United States. But as the U.S. has ramped up its own strong language against North Korea, the so-called “hermit kingdom” has responded with a series of its own threatening statements — as well as with two missile tests. One of those tests failed, however.
But military experts say that the Trump administration has few realistic options beyond the tough talk to counter the North Korean threat. According to a report Wednesday in USA Today, “it’s unlikely a U.S. strike could wipe out North Korea’s nuclear arsenal completely or prevent the country’s unpredictable leader, Kim Jong Un, from launching a devastating artillery and missile attack on prosperous South Korea in retaliation.”
In fact, in addition to an arsenal of what experts estimate to be 20 nuclear weapons, North Korea also has about 10,000 artillery tubes capable of firing up to 500,000 shells per hour along the Demilitarized Zone line and aimed at the South Korean capital of Seoul — with its population of 25 million a mere 35 miles from the DMZ.
Kim Jong-un’s military is also believed to possess about 1,000 ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Any of those missiles could reach Seoul, and about one-third of the ballistic missiles could reach Japan — where 50,000 United States troops remain stationed and in the line of fire.
While a strike by the United States could potentially reduce North Korea’s nuclear and conventional capabilities, Institute for Science and International Security President David Albright told USA Today that North Korea would almost certainly be able to launch an attack that would “flatten” Seoul before the U.S. could stop it.
A report last weekend said that North Korea had ordered the evacuation of about 600,000 people from the country’s capital of Pyongyang, a city of 2.5 million, in preparation for a United States conventional or nuclear attack.
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]