N. Korea warns of nuclear war ‘at any moment’

NEW YORK, N.Y. (CNN) – It is the ultimate threat issued on the floor of the United Nations and designed to strike fear into the hearts of the Americans.

Kim In Ryong, North Korean Deputy Ambassador to U.N. said, “A nuclear war may break out at any moment.”

That ominous warning from one of Kim Jong Un’s top diplomats Monday comes, he says, because the U.S. is “insulting the dignity” of North Korea by preparing war plans to take Kim out.

When asked why issue that threat at this particular moment, Kelly Magsamen, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense replied, “Part of this is their classic bluster. But it’s also brinksmanship on their part. And Kim Jong Un is notorious for brinksmanship.”

A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN North Korea is escalating its rhetoric, because Kim wants nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of his regime, and because he wants some kind of security arrangement with the U.S.

One of the C.I.A.’s top analysts on North Korea recently suggested that while Kim may sound unhinged, he’s also strategic in his thinking. “Kim is a rational actor,” Young Lee explained. “I think his long-term goal is very clear. To come to a big-power agreement with the U.S. that would remove U.S. forces from the peninsula.”

More than 28,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea. And Kim’s regime often tells its people, the Americans are threatening them. But neither side appears willing to back down.

Just last month, President Trump told the U.N. that if North Korea attacks the U.S. or its allies, “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

On Monday, North Korea’s man at the U.N. appeared to counter that promise, saying the entire U.S. mainland is within North Korea’s firing-range.

The same day, another North Korean official told CNN his country would not negotiate with the U.S. until it has a long-range missile capable of reaching the east coast of the U.S., a long-time goal of the regime. Missile experts remain divided on whether that is idle talk–or a real possibility.

Some believe the North Koreans have that capability now, but others say they need to tweak their current missiles–which some believe could already hit the West Coast.

Michael Elleman with the International Institute for Strategic Studies said, “They would have several options. One is to use the engine that’s on this particular missile, but pair it with another one, so it produces twice the thrust–or forcing action–to lift it into space. And then place a larger second stage on there, which allow it to take one or two warheads to any place on the continental U.S.”

Experts say the North Koreans also have to test whether a nuclear-tipped missile can survive re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and have to successfully test the missile’s guidance system for accuracy. They might still be at least a couple of years away from having a missile fully-capable of striking the East Coast.

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