North Korea on Monday issued its latest belligerent threat, warning of an indiscriminate "pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice" on Washington and Seoul, this time in reaction to the start of huge US-South Korean military drills. Such threats have been a staple of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since he took power after his dictator father's death in December 2011. But they spike especially when Washington and Seoul stage what they call annual defensive springtime war games. Pyongyang says the drills, which started Monday and run through the end of April, are invasion rehearsals. This year's war games will be the largest ever staged, involving 300,000 South Korean and 17,000 US troops.
The North's powerful National Defense Commission threatened strikes against targets in the South, US bases in the Pacific, and the US mainland, saying its enemies "are working with bloodshot eyes" to infringe upon the sovereignty and dignity of North Korea. "If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment," the statement said. There is considerable debate about whether Pyongyang is even capable of the kind of "strikes" it threatens, but the rhetoric raises unease in Seoul and its US ally, not least because of the huge number of troops and weaponry facing off along the world's most heavily armed border. (Last week, Pyongyang responded to new sanctions with a missile launch.)