Kim Jong-un is crazier than his father.
North Korea threatened the United States on Thursday with a preemptive nuclear strike, raising the level of rhetoric while the U.N. Security Council considers new sanctions against the reclusive country.
North Korea, which held a mass military rally in Pyongyang on Thursday in support of its recent threats, has protested against the U.N. censures of its rocket launches. It says they are part of a peaceful space program and that the criticism is an exercise of double standards by the United States.
North Korea has accused the United States of using military drills in South Korea as a launch pad for a nuclear war and has scrapped the armistice with Washington that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea, which has one major ally, neighboring China, threatens the United States and its "puppet", South Korea, on an almost daily basis.
"Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest," the North's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
North Korea conducted a third nuclear test on February 12, in defiance of U.N. resolutions, and declared it had achieved progress in securing a functioning atomic arsenal. It is widely believed the North does not have the capacity to deliver a nuclear strike on the mainland United States.
The North's unnamed foreign ministry spokesman also said it would be entitled to take military action as of March 11 when U.S.-South Korea military drills move into a full-scale phase as it had declared the truce invalid.
It is the latest in an escalation of tough words from both sides of the armed Korean border this week as the U.N. Security Council deliberates a resolution to tighten financial sanctions and a naval blockade against the North.
The United States government is viewing this as simple bluster. The North Koreans don't have a rocket that can reach US soil and they have not shown the capability to construct a nuclear warhead.
But the threats against South Korea are certainly real. What's worrisome is that Kim may not be fully in charge - that a more hardline, bellicose faction could be running things and Kim has been allowed to stay as something of a useful figurehead.
Given the opaqueness of North Korean regime politics, it can't be ruled out.