North Korea raised the nuclear threat level against the United States on Wednesday, warning it could launch a pre-emptive attack on the U.S. and South Korea.
Pyongyang claimed such an attack could come as part of its military options, as it continued to raise its rhetoric and escalate tensions over military drills carried out recently in the region between the two allies.
The North Korean military leadership said Tuesday it would place its missile and artillery units into “highest level combat readiness” and reiterated that it could take actual military action.
The statement further increased already-tense relations on the northern and southern sides of the Korean border.
American geopolitical military strategy analyst Mark Langfan noted that “while the north has issued threats before, threats of ‘pre-emptive nuclear attack’ appear to ratchet up the north’s rhetoric.”
When asked whether North Korea appeared to be bluffing, Langfan told Arutz Sheva in an email exchange on Thursday, “It certainly looks real to me.”
On Wednesday, North Korea cut off the last military hotline with South Korea, claiming newly-installed President Park Geun-hye was following policies similar to those of her predecessor, who also raised northern ire.
A hotline connecting the International Committee of the Red Cross and a line with the U.S. military command, both in South Korea, had already been shut down.
But the four military lines connecting the two countries were all that remained to allow daily cross-border traffic for cargo and workers employed at a joint industrial park in Kaesong.
On Thursday morning, South Korean officials told a reporter for The New York Times that traffic was still running normally through the border crossing. Hotlines also still exist between the two civil aviation authorities.
But a North Korean statement sent to the South Korean military by telephone and later carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, “There do not exist any dialogue cannel and communications means between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S. and between the North and the South. Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces. Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep North-South military communications.”
In her response, South Korea’s president Park told a briefing, “If North Korea provokes or does things that harm peace, we must make sure that it gets nothing but will pay the price, while if it keeps its promises, the South should do the same. Without rushing, and in the same way we would lay one brick after another, we must develop South-North relations step by step, based on trust, and create sustainable peace.”