Amidst movement at the United Nations toward toughest sanctions against North Korea, the North Korean proclamation to preemptively strike the United States should not be taken lightly. It is a threat because North Korea now has both the capability and the intent.
North Korea, though thought to be incapable of launching a nuclear warhead against the United States, can strike US military bases in South Korea and the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Moreover, the delivery of a nuclear weapon over long range can be accomplished by conventional military or civilian aircraft, as was the case with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instead of a missile.
North and South Korea, given the evolving situation in the Korean Peninsula, are already in a state of war because the North has discarded the 1953 armistice. It is clear that Pyongyang is responding to UN sanctions and the joint military exercises of US and South Korea.
It is yet to be seen if sanctions will be effective in practice and China’s role in effectuating them.
Regime preservation is the objective of all North Korean actions. If the regime is to be preserved, the solution lays in North Korean economic transformation a la China in lieu of North Korean military expenditures with China providing the security umbrella to North Korea.
While moving forward on the talks with Iran will necessitate lifting all sanctions, North Korea may leave no other option besides regime change. At issue is how peaceful can that process be.
North Korea presents a choice to the other 5 parties in the 6-party talks: gradualism of regime change by putting the country on the path of transformation over time or the imminence of regime change and Korean reunification.