While fears that World War Three could ignite on the Korean peninsula faded earlier in April after North Korea did not conduct an anticipated nuclear weapons test, this fears were rekindled anew on Monday as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to to launch a nuclear strike against northern Australia — where 1,250 United States Marines were recently deployed.
Also kicking off this week, South Korea, Japan, and the United States were reportedly bracing for North Korea to conduct its sixth nuclear weapons test, which is believed to be scheduled for Tuesday if it indeed occurs, according to reports in the South Korean press.
April 25 is the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean military, and the country has historically marked significant holidays with large-scale displays of destructive weaponry, including both conventional missile tests and trial explosions of nuclear weapons.
According to the Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper, experts in both China and Washington believe that a new North Korean nuclear test could take place either Tuesday or sometime in the two-week period leading up to the May 9 South Korea presidential election. North Korea has also timed what the experts call "provocations" to coincide with South Korean elections, the JoongAng Daily reported.
Donald Trump, in a highly unusual move, summoned all 100 members of the United States Senate to the White House on Wednesday for a special briefing on the North Korea situation, leading some observers to speculate that Trump is planning some sort of military strike against North Korea.
Trump's move comes after North Korea government issued a dire threat against Australia, warning of a nuclear attack in the country continued to support the U.S. policy toward the isolated state ruled by Kim Jong Un.
A deployment of U.S. Marines, numbering 1,250, arrived in Darwin, Australia, earlier this month, a deployment that led the official news outlet of North Korea's ruling Workers Party, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, to declare, "America is fanatically, crazily trying to optimize its nuclear war readiness."
North Korea officials quoted in the country's state-run press outlets threatened to launch a nuclear attack on Australia and, presumably, on the U.S. Marines.
"If Australia persists in following the U.S. moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK," a North Korea government statement said.
The official name of North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DRPK.
The official state news agency, KCNA, also quoted the country's defense minister, Pak Young-sik, issuing a similar nuclear warning — extending the threat not only to Australia but to the mainland United States as well.
"Our nuclear weapons capable of striking US military bases in Asia-Pacific areas and the U.S. homeland are fully prepared to be fired from launchers," Pak threatened, according to the official account.Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop admonished the North Korean government over the weekend for spending large sums of money on "weapons of mass destruction," rather than investing in "the welfare of its long-suffering citizens." However, Bishop's comments drew an angry reaction from North Korea.
A North Korea foreign ministry official was quoted by KCNA blasting Bishop for, he said, "blindly and zealously toeing the U.S. line," and warning the Australian Foreign Minister to "think twice" before issuing another "reckless tongue-lashing."
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E/AP Images]