After weeks of escalating threats, the North Korean regime released a series of photos Friday morning through its official news organ, Korean Central News Agency, showing the secretive nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, huddling with military officers and going over what appears to be plans for a rocket attack against the United States. In spite of these threats, however, mayors and other officials in the cities supposedly under threat seem to be taking the saber-rattling in stride.Reuters, which distributed the photos from KCNA described them as showing Kim Jong Un presiding over “an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People’s Army Strategic Rocket Force’s performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang.” The description of the pictures also noted a poster clearly visible in the background labeled, “Strategic force’s plan to hit the mainland of the U.S.” NK News also examined the picture and concluded it seemed to show Washington D.C., Hawaii, San Diego, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas as the primary targets of the planned strike.
In spite of the ominous imagery, most experts do not believe North Korea has the capability to attack the mainland United States and the photo, which was published in a large North Korean newspaper, could simply be propaganda. TPM reached out to leaders in the cities supposedly in Kim Jong Un’s crosshairs who either professed little concern or ignored the question altogether.
“The City has been in contact with federal officials through the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC) regarding the North Korean threat to Austin,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said in a statement. “Austin’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management department and the Austin Police Department are monitoring the situation, and though they take this very seriously, they do not believe the threats are credible at this time.”
A spokesman for Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray declined to comment. As of this writing, neither the offices of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders or Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie have responded to our requests.
Update (3/30/13 1:46 AM): Governor Abercrombie’s office provided a statement to TPM saying he is “confident” Hawaii is ready to address any potential threat from North Korea.
“Gov. Neil Abercrombie is in close communication with political and military authority both here and in Washington D.C. As a member of the President’s Council of Governors, he is in contact with the Pentagon on military affairs. As a former member of the House Armed Services Committee for two decades, he is aware of both the military and political context at issue regarding North Korea. The Governor is confident that all challenges are being addressed.”
A representative for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa referred us to another agency.
“I think this is a question best directed towards the Department of Defense,” the spokesman said.
A duty officer in the Department of Defense press office also dismissed the threat of a North Korean strike.
“The US is fully capable in defending itself and our allies against a DPRK attack. We are firmly committed to to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan,” said the duty officer. “North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others. DPRK will achieve nothing by threats or provocations which will only fully isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensue peace and stability.”
On Thursday, the United States military responded to North Korea’s increasingly aggressive stance with its own show of force–flying two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on a practice mission over the Korean Peninsula.
We also called North Korea’s permanent mission in the United Nations to see if any official from the regime was willing to discuss the threatened missile strike or the ominous map. The man who answered the phone declined to comment.
“I’m sorry to say that we are not dealing with foreign press,” he said just before hanging up. “Thank you for your calling. Bye.”