Opinion Brief

North Korea's latest threats: Mere bluster or a real danger?

Pyongyang warns that it's readying a "peculiar" strike against South Korea, and, as usual, it's unclear whether the browbeating is serious or just hot air

After being threatened by its enemy-neighbor to the north, South Korea has put its military on alert and increased police patrols around conservative newspapers and TV stations. The North Korean military on Monday accused the South's government and news media of slandering its leaders, and vowed to reduce "ratlike groups" in Seoul to ashes soon "by unprecedented peculiar means." Is this just typical, over-the-top chest-thumping from the volatile hermit kingdom, or could Pyongyang really mean it this time?

North Korea might follow through: Usually, these rants from Pyongyang are just for show, says Jason Miks at The Diplomat. This threat, however, came after a humiliating missile-test failure, and amid rumors that the regime is planning a nuclear test. The country's young, unproven leader, Kim Jong Un, might feel "he needs a successful show of military strength to consolidate his hold on power." Kim wants to be feared, not ridiculed, so there's a greater danger than usual that the regime will "act on its threats.""North Korea in ashes threat"

This is probably just saber rattling: At the moment, the North's threat, although unusually specific, "looks like bluster," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, as Pyongyang hasn't moved any troops to the border. "Newly-installed Dear Leader" Kim Jong Un is probably just desperate to scare "the rational world" into resuming food aid so he can feed his troops. But Seoul and Washington will be ready to respond, so if Pyongyang really tries terrorist attacks in Seoul, "starvation will be the least of their concerns.""North Korea threatens terrorism to demolish South Korea government in 4 minutes or less"

With North Korea, you just never know: The conventional wisdom is that North Korea "would never be stupid enough to start an all-out war," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, because it would lose. But Pyongyang has pulled provocative stunts before, such as sinking a South Korean warship, and it just might try a terrorist strike that could escalate into something bigger. Anything can happen when you're dealing with a rogue regime "that's armed to the teeth and led by a 20-something kid.""North Korea threatens 'special actions' against the South"

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