North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the North Korean military to prepare nuclear weapons for use in a pre-emptive attack at any time . Kim emphasized "the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defence always on standby so as to be fired any moment."
The aggressive statement follows the imposition of strict new U.N. sanctions drafted by the United States and China, in part as a reaction to North Korea's test of an "H-bomb of justice" earlier this year, a weapon which may or may not actually be a hydrogen bomb. Other causes for the sanctions included North Korea's launch of a satellite, using a long-range missile that is very similar to one that might be used in an ICBM. And though the satellite ultimately just tumbled around in orbit, the rocket launch that got it there was generally a success, though most analysts agree that North Korea is probably still incapable of attacking the United States directly
In defiance of these sanctions, North Korea has already fired off missiles into the sea, and Kim's latest statement makes explicit the threats of future attacks using actual nuclear weapons. "Now is the time for us to convert our mode of military counteraction toward the enemies into a pre-emptive attack one in every aspect," Kim is quoted as saying by KCNA.
Kim Jong Un is known to threaten vehemently, explicitly, and frequently with little action to follow up, but North Korea's recent exploits with nuclear tests and rocket launches lend the threats a little extra weight, which hasn't gone unnoticed in the region.
In January, the United States flew its own nuclear bomber over the Korean peninsula as a reminder of the consequences of such an attack, and did so again in February. South Korea, meanwhile, has been moving to adopt a U.S. anti-missile system for its own defense and China may be putting its own nukes on high alert.