Today in The North Korea Threat Exchange

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 12 2013 1:56 PM

Today in the North Korea Threat Exchange

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He's not promising a sea of fire, but Secretary Of State John Kerry is sending some warnings of his own to North Korea.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

North Korea informed Japan on Friday that it would hit Tokyo should the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalate, continuing the dictatorship's near-daily barrage of threats.

The report comes from South Korea's Yonhap News, which explains:

"In a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the communist country lashed out at Tokyo's standing orders to destroy any missile heading toward Japan, threatening such actions will result in a nuclear attack against the island nation."
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Japan deployed missiles to Tokyo on Tuesday, vowing to shoot down any misfires approaching Japan from an expected midrange missile test.

Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence community is publicly all over the place on whether North Korea could actually produce a nuclear warhead. A report partially released yesterday from one Pentagon intelligence agency (after a member of Congress cited it in a hearing) concluded with "moderate confidence" that the country could make a nuclear weapon, albeit one with low reliability. But that report doesn't seem to represent a consensus conclusion of the U.S. government and was immediately downplayed by senior intelligence officials, as Reuters reports:

Pentagon spokesman George Little said, "It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage."
James Clapper, the country's senior intelligence official, warned that the assessment was not necessarily shared by the wider U.S. intelligence community.
"I would add that the statement read by the Member is not an Intelligence Community assessment. Moreover, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile," Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, issuing some warnings of his own to the north. While Kerry's remarks were far from a Kim Jong Un-style promise to drown our enemies in a sea of flames, he had a clear message to convey to the young dictator. Calling the country's plans to test a missile a "huge mistake," Kerry said (via the AP): 

"If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it's across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing willfully to ignore the entire international community. And it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people's temperatures. ... It will further isolate his country and further isolate his people who are desperate for food and not missile launches. They are desperate for opportunity and not for a leader to flex his muscles."

As of Friday, according to NBC News, North Korea's medium-range missiles are still fueled and able to fire at any time, but there's been no evidence of increased military activity from the country to suggest a rocket launch is actually about to happen.

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