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North Korea threatens US after it helps South Korea

The question now is whether the furor over missiles actually marks another step on the way to a much more serious confrontation, or is simply another exercise in a long-running game of dare.

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North Korean soldiers, back, look at the southern side as South Korean soldiers, foreground, stand guard at the border village of Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Hye Soo Nah/AP

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North Korea boasted Tuesday that the United States was “within the scope” of its long-range missiles after South Korea vowed to deploy new missiles capable of reaching anywhere inside the North.

North Korea’s National Defense Commission, the country’s most powerful ruling body, issued the threat in response to an agreement between the US and South Korea for the South to increase the striking distance of its missiles to 500 miles, nearly triple their current range. 

The North’s Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesman as saying the North was ready to combat a “nuclear” attack by the US with “nuclear” weapons and to deploy “missiles against missiles.”

The question, however, is whether the furor over missiles – both South and North Korean – really marks another step on the way to a much more serious confrontation, including the risk of a second Korean War, or is simply another exercise in a long-running game of dare and double-dare.

“The North Koreans are trying to use their nuclear and missile programs as a panacea for their internal systemic problems,” says David Straub, a former senior diplomat in Seoul, South Korea, now associate director of the Korean studies program at Stanford University in California. “They want to reset the strategic chessboard and force South Korea, the United States, and others to deal on North Korean terms.”

By extending its own missile range, South Korea “answers that effort strategically," Mr. Straub says. 

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