Less than a week after the head of the United Nations warned of North Korea's nuclear ambitions in a Monterey speech, the country issued its boldest threat to the United States in years.
North Korea said Thursday it would "target" the United States with long-range rocket launches and another nuclear test.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a crowd of more than 200 on Jan. 18 at the Monterey Institute of International Studies that North Korea's successful rocket launch in December "exacerbated global concern of its pursuit of nuclear weapons."
He also stressed that the nuclear disarmament progress had gone "off track" and the delay in addressing the threat was a great risk.
In a statement Thursday, North Korea's National Defense Commission said: "We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Two MIIS professors who were in the crowd for Ban's speech said Thursday the secretary-general anticipated North Korea's actions.
"(Ban) was trying to get in front of a story that's been developing for the past few months," said Jeffrey Lewis, director of MIIS' East Asia Nonproliferation Program. "It didn't come out of the blue."
Lewis said he expects North Korea to follow through with its threat, but that its statement lacked impact because of its "predictable pattern" of retaliation against the U.
"It's not that people aren't worried," Lewis said, "it's just that we've been through this a number of times now."
Sandy Spector, head of MIIS' James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies office in Washington, D.C., said he took comfort in Ban's efforts to reduce nuclear weapons.
"The fact the secretary-general is concerned about this is a good thing," he said. "... It reinforces the importance of watching things closely and trying to manage a very dangerous situation."
Wire services contributed to this report.
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.