Maybe the mainstream press over in the U.S. is a little slow. Israel’s media today is headlining a new threat from North Korea: Pyongyang announced, through a state-run newspaper, that it will use its nuclear weapons against anyone who, in its mind, provokes it. “Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means … as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country’s dignity and sovereignty even a bit.” Through this line, run by the state-run news agency, North Korea is for the first time giving up the pretense of developing only “defensive” nukes. And it is intended as the clearest warning yet against anything the West might consider doing.
True, North Korea is known for its bellicose phrasing. But phrasing is part of the reality of politics. While the U.S. “weighs” putting North Korea back on the terror list and “considers” whether to start enforcing a UN Security Council resolution calling for the inspection of North Korean vessels, Pyongyang is saying explicitly what it intends to do. Is it just rhetoric? If so, a lack of response from the West sends a terrifying message to South Korea and other neighboring countries, who are now all looking to Washington for leadership. If not, then we all need to begin asking ourselves: What will Washington do if North Korea decides to send its messages in the form of military strikes, even a nuclear attack?
Oh, and if you wonder why Israelis are so concerned about North Korean nukes, maybe it’s because Israelis feel in their bones what many Americans have yet to figure out: that there is no better indicator as to how the administration will really handle the Iranian threat tomorrow than to look at how it handles North Korea today. There is, potentially, a direct link between American failure here and the likelihood of an Israeli attack there.