North Korea routinely threatened nuclear attacks on America for much of the past decade, peaking in intensity around 2016-2017. Pyongyang’s communist regime issued many of those threats in the form of videos simulating nuclear attacks on Washington, DC, and other major American cities. Following its most recent nuclear attack in September 2017, however, the United Nations approved of strict sanctions on North Korea that have crippled its economy and apparently limited its ability to threaten free states.
The belligerent statement out of Moscow follows a turbulent week in which the North Koreans bombed a joint liaison office with the South in Kaesong, built exclusively with South Korean money, and have since refused any talks with the leftist government of President Moon Jae-in. Dictator Kim Jong-un has apparently tasked his sister, Kim Yo-jong, with leading the propaganda charge against the South, as Kim has signed her name on several insulting statements targeting Moon.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported the statement out of North Korea’s outpost in Moscow on Saturday, stating it was sent to the agency directly from the embassy.
“This year, the U.S. military is deploying all sorts of military maneuvers in South Korea and in the areas adjacent to it,” the North Korean embassy in Moscow reportedly stated, without specifying what “maneuvers” it was referring to since Seoul and Washington have paused military activities. It instead highlighted its possession of nuclear weapons “which are capable of mercilessly punishing those who dare to raise their hand at it, in whatever corner of the … planet he may be.”
“A new round of the Korean War will add a particularly sensational event to the history of mankind, which will put an end to another empire, whose name is the United States,” the statement reportedly concluded.
The warring parties marked the 70th anniversary of the war on Sunday. While active hostilities occurred from 1950 to 1953, neither side – South Korea and America, and North Korea and China – signed a peace agreement, only an armistice, meaning the war never officially ended. North and South Korean troops still face each other on the Korean border to this day, in the event that hostilities resume.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened nuclear strikes on the United States. In 2017, North Korea’s state propaganda arms published multiple videos simulating nuclear attacks on Washington, DC, and San Francisco, California.
“It is self-evident that the DPRK [North Korea] can never stop bolstering up the nuclear deterrent under the grave situation in which no one can guess when a nuclear war may break out due to the U.S. seeking to stifle the DPRK by nukes,” a representative North Korean state media article from 2017 read. “The U.S. more persistent moves to launch a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula would precipitate its final doom.”
Kim Jong-un signed an agreement with President Donald Trump in 2018 during their first meeting in Singapore vowing to work towards “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Neither side defined that term, however, leaving unresolved the fact that Washington traditionally defines it as an end to North Korea’s illegal nuclear program, while Pyongyang defines it as the absence of U.S. troops throughout Korea since America is a nuclear power.
As of May, evidence in the form of satellite imagery of nuclear development sites suggests that Kim never attempted to denuclearize and has maintained steady development of his illegal nuclear arsenal.
“There has been no slow down at all that we can detect at present,” Joseph Bermudez, the author of a report by the Central for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published that month, said at the time. “It is part of North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile structure and it needs to be addressed at any future North Korean and US discussions.” The United Nations reached a similar conclusion in February. Last week, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published a report estimating that North Korea possesses between 30 and 40 nuclear weapons.
While a specifically nuclear threat from North Korea has not occurred in years, North Korean diplomats made vague threats in December that Pyongyang would send America a “Christmas present” in response to its support for the South. By January, it became clear that the North Koreans did not have anything in mind regarding this “present.”
The North Korea-American relationship, as the one between the two Koreas, had been largely quiet on the world stage until this month, when North Korean state media began aggressively objecting to human rights groups in the South sending leaflets across the border with prohibited news on them. North Koreans are allowed to read only state-produced news and media, risking death if exposed to international news, movies, or music. Human rights groups also use water bottles to float necessary goods like rice and other food into North Korea, as its citizens regularly face the threat of famine.
In mid-June, Kim Yo-jong began vocally demanding an end to the leaflet campaigns, referring to them as an extreme insult and threatening violence. After two years of daily calls between the Koreas at the Kaesong liaison office, the North Koreans stopped answering the phone. Moon’s government vowed to target and prosecute human rights advocates for sending the leaflets, but it did not stop the North’s aggression. Last week, video surfaced of the office exploding into ashes, later confirmed to be a North Korean bombing. South Korea’s Unification Minister resigned as a result.
On Monday, North Korean state media announced a reverse leaflet campaign, featuring 12 million communist propaganda leaflets dumped throughout South Korea.
“Various equipment and means of distributing leaflets, including over 3,000 balloons of various types capable of scattering leaflets deep inside South Korea, have been prepared,” North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) asserted. “The time for retaliatory punishment is drawing near.”
According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, the leaflets will be “featuring Moon’s face covered in cigarette butts and trash.” North Korea has responded to leaflet campaigns in the past by dumping trash, including used toilet paper and cigarette butts, across the border.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency also published photos on Monday of what appear to be industrial-grade loudspeakers on the Northern side of the border, apparently a sign that Pyongyang is preparing to broadcast communist propaganda to the South in the near future.
South Korean human rights groups have vowed to continue their campaigns.
“We are getting ready to send [the leaflet-filled balloons to the North] around June 25 based on wind conditions,” Park Sang-hak, the leader of the human rights group Fighters for a Free North Korea, told South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday. “If the wind doesn’t blow we cannot send them, but if wind conditions are right we can send them as early as tonight.”
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