Winds of war?
North Korea has always been an accident waiting to happen, and now even more so.
Even by the standards of the Hermit Kingdom, the pro-war rhetoric coming out of North Korea is over the top.
But what does it mean? That's what political and military analysts are wondering as North Korea continues to threaten to launch nuclear missiles at the United States, talk of an existing state of war with South Korea and urge foreign embassies located in Pyongyang to evacuate their diplomatic personnel.
"The moment of explosion is approaching fast. The United States had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation," according to a statement issued by the general staff of the North Korean People's Army.
The good news is that North Korea does not have a nuclear weapon that is capable of reaching the American mainland. But it certainly has enough firepower to wreak havoc on the Korean peninsula.
That reality and the shaky, paranoid and inexperienced leadership of North Korea combine to create a bizarre and dangerous situation.
It is, of course, nothing new for North Korea to issue provocative statements or even engage in isolated military attacks on its South Korean neighbors. It is something else altogether for it to repeatedly threaten nuclear war and aim its statements directly at the United States.
North Korea is the world's most ruthless authoritarian state. It is isolated and desperately poor, and it is only through its military prowess, including its nuclear-weapons program, that it can attract attention. That supports speculation that North Korean rhetoric really is meant to stir nationalistic feelings among a people who have no other reason to like their government.
If that's the game, it's understandable. But President Kim Jong Un is in danger of backing himself into a rhetorical corner from which he may not be able to escape. How many times can one threaten, but not make, war?
The saving grace of past American face-offs with totalitarian regimes is that their leaders might have been ruthless and cruel, but they were not suicidal. The kind of full-scale war North Korea is threatening would result in the destruction of its government. Then again, Kim Jong Un might be so isolated and inexperienced that he's misreading the situation. He wouldn't be the first dictator — Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, to name just two — who made fatal misjudgments while flexing their muscles.