N. Korea Unable to Reach U.S. With Missiles, but Asia Allies Vulnerable

North Korea's threat on Thursday to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the United States was an empty bluff given its current missile capabilities. However, regional U.S. allies South Korea and Japan are well within range of the North's substantial missile arsenal, according to Reuters.

Pyongyang made the threat just hours before being hit with a new round of U.N. Security Council sanctions over its Feb. 12 nuclear test. The North subsequently said it would no longer abide by nonaggression deals with South Korea.

The South is the most vulnerable to the North Korean military's missiles though Japan is also at risk with only 625 miles of water separating it from the Stalinist state. "They have the capability to strike anywhere in the South and Japan," Korea Defense Network head Shin In-kyun said.

Some of North Korea's intermediate-range ballistic missiles are thought able to strike U.S. military outposts in Guam. The North also has a submarine force, which is suspected to have been behind the March 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship.

"The greatest realistic threat from North Korea is a type of attack that will create maximum confusion in the South but one that will be confusing as to who instigated it so that it will not invite immediate retaliation on Pyongyang", former South Korean army Gen. Song Young-keun told Reuters.

North Korea asserts it can build nuclear warheads small enough to mount on strategic ballistic missiles; few experts believe this claim. "It's hogwash, blackmail," Song said of the North's threat to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.

North Korean Vice Defense Minister Gen. Kang Pyo Yong told a large gathering in Pyongyang on Thursday that "with their targets set, our intercontinental ballistic missiles and other missiles are on a standby, loaded with lighter, smaller and diversified nuclear warheads.

"If we push the button, they will blast off and their barrage will turn Washington, the stronghold of American imperialists and the nest of evil, and its followers, into a sea of fire," regime media quoted him as saying, according to the New York Times.

"If North Korea attacks South Korea with a nuclear weapon, Kim Jong Un's regime will perish from the earth," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said on Friday in a Yonhap News Agency report.

Obama administration lead official for North Korea policy Glyn Davies on Thursday said the U.S. government had assured its Japanese and South Korean allies "at the highest levels" of Washington's resolve to maintain extended deterrence in the region in response to the North Korean threat, Reuters reported.

 

March 8, 2013
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North Korea's threat on Thursday to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the United States was an empty bluff given its current missile capabilities. However, regional U.S. allies South Korea and Japan are well within range of the North's substantial missile arsenal, according to Reuters.

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