North Korea Nuclear Threats Sound Scary, But Really Aren't

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un has green-lit a plan to prepare rockets that would be directed toward U.S. military bases. The state-run Korean Central News Agency announced Friday the military’s plans to prepare strikes. While the Department of Defense has expressed concern about the rockets, Washington can rest assured that these threats lack credibility based on North Korea’s unsuccessful past.

"If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, (we) should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," the KCNA said, citing Kim.

Other threats ensued earlier on Tuesday when military officials announced their plans to direct rockets towards Guam, Hawaii and even the US mainland. This rhetoric has come in response of the recent B-52 bomber flights to South Korea. While U.S. officials defend that the planes were a part of an annual military procedure, it was poorly received by Kim. It comes as no surprise that the U.S. and South Korea relationship has largely been adding fuel to the fire for increased tensions.

As for U.S. security, officials should not be overwhelmed with fear. Kim has had a notorious history of exercising rhetoric, but his actions speak otherwise. North Korea launched a rocket that released a weather satellite into the atmosphere in December 2012. Another rocket launch to release a satellite was attempted from the capital of Pyongyang. That test failed in April 2012 after the rocket was seen crashing into the waters off the North Korean coast. However the U.S. viewed the event as a disguise to test long-range missile technology in spite of UN sanctions against it.

Regardless of North Korea’s failed missile attempts and its turbulent relationship with the United States, the Department of Defense should not be overwhelmed by the new threats to military bases. While any rhetoric involving the intent to use nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles should not be taken lightly, the chances of a nuclear war are highly unlikely. The closest the world has come to such a war was during the Cuban Missile Crisis under JFK. Although the event occurred over 50 years ago, it still sets significant precedent in U.S. legitimacy in practicing compellence to foreign threats. With that in mind, Kim will probably continue his false rhetoric just for a mere ego boost.

The Department of Defense has taken extensive precautions in response to the new threats. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in a press conference on March 15 that 14 interceptor missiles would join a grouping of preexisting missiles in Alaska in the event that military force is needed to strike down an incoming warhead. While the chances of a live warhead reaching U.S. territory are slim, North Korea will continue doing what it does best: exuberantly false, bellicose rhetoric.