I believe the latest threats, including calls to "break the waists of the crazy enemies and totally cut their windpipes", is part of North Korea's continued military brinkmanship. Their main aim is to carve a better position for themselves to bargain from during political and economic negotiations.
However, I think it's important to acknowledge that playing such dangerous games can sometimes have very serious (and often unintended) consequences.
Is North Korea preparing for war?
Probably not. Despite all the fuss made about North Korea's potential nuclear threat, I don't think anyone really believes that they are capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile - let alone reaching the US with it.
Considering the increased US missile-defense presence in the area, I'm not even sure how effective a North Korean aerial campaign against South Korea or Japan would be.
So why all the photos of Kim Jong-un posing in front of maps charting missile courses leading to the US mainland?
There are several theories:
- It's a response to the latest round of joint US-South Korean military exercises and economic sanctions.
- Kim Jong-un is trying to establish himself and gain some credibility among North Korea's generals and military leaders.
- This is a test of newly elected first-ever female South Korean president Park Geun-hye
- North Korea has carried out 3 nuclear tests in recent months.
- They've restarted a plutonium-producing reactor.
- The armistice with the South has officially been broken.
- A shared North-South industrial zone on the border between the two countries has been closed down (something that hasn't happened in any other standoffs)