Fact Check

Did North Korea Threaten to 'Nuke' U.S. 'If Even a Single Bullet Is Fired'?

The North Korean government apparently issued the warning, but it was not made in response to a U.S. naval strike force's being deployed to the region.

Published Apr 13, 2017

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On 7 April 2017, the clickbait web site TwoFeed.org posted an alarming story with the headline, "Global war approaches: North Korea warns: 'If a single bullet is fired we will nuke the United States.'" The article then went into a far-fetched scenario about the impoverished country's knocking out the U.S. electrical grid with an "EMP" (electro-magnetic pulse) strike and claimed that North Korea's autocratic leader Kim Jong Un had issued a threat of imminent war:.

If even a single bullet is fired, says [Kim Jong] Un, his country will immediately initiate a nuclear attack on the United States.

Should North Korea or another adversary opt for a more strategic strike, such as detonating a single EMP-based nuclear weapon directly above the central United States, it could take down our entire power grid.

Experts have warned that such an attack could revert the United States back to the 1800’s, a scenario that could lead to the deaths of some 90% of the U.S. population within one year due to starvation, disease, and violence.

This kind of disaster requires longer-term planning and stockpiling of essential supplies like emergency food, potable water, and personal defense armaments.

Because the bulk of the story didn't sound credible (even for North Korea), many readers questioned whether the North Korean government really issued such an ultimatum. According to the news agency Reuters and their reporter assigned to the United Nations, North Korea's foreign ministry did make the statement to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, but they did so a full month before the TwoFeed.org story was posted.

As Reuters reported on 8 March 2017:

North Korea fired the missiles into the sea off Japan's coast in response to the annual U.S.-South Korea military drills, which Pyongyang sees as preparation for war. Pyongyang has fired dozens of missiles and conducted two of its five nuclear tests in the past year in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

In a statement sent to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, North Korea's Foreign Ministry warned that it would "reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people's happiness in case the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK."

The 8 March 2017 statement in full reads:

The ballistic rocket launching drill conducted by the Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA this time is a routine one to resolutely frustrate the ever more undisguised nuclear war racket of the U.S. and other hostile forces and honorably defend the security of the country and nation.

The U.S. and south Korean puppet forces kicked off the joint military maneuvers aimed at a preemptive nuclear strike against the DPRK only to push the situation to the brink of a nuclear war.

It is a just self-defensive right of a sovereign state to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out anytime and to consolidate powerful deterrence in every way to mercilessly wipe out the aggressors.

Nevertheless, the U.S. and other hostile forces are openly conducting the drills for a real war aimed at a preemptive nuclear strike against the DPRK by mobilizing lots of strategic assets and armed forces.

They let the UN Security Council release a press statement, labeling KPA's routine drill as "threat". It is a brigandish act like a thief crying "stop thief!"

The DPRK categorically rejects the press statement of the UNSC as it wantonly violated sovereign state's rights to self-defense.

It is the unanimous view of the fair-minded international community that the largest-ever nuclear war drills launched by the U.S. in league with the south Korean puppet forces are the root cause of pushing the DPRK to take the toughest action.

The DPRK has already clarified several times that the joint military drills are potentially dangerous as they will wreck peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and screw up regional tensions. So, it filed complaint with the UNSC against the war games this time, too.

How to deal with the complaint and the ill-intended maneuvers of the U.S. and its vassal forces will be a marked occasion for the UNSC to show the international community whether the UNSC regarding it as its mission to preserve global peace and security fulfils its responsibility or not.

As already clarified, the KPA will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people's happiness in case the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK.

The DPRK will certainly preserve its peace and security with its own efforts and positively contribute to protecting global peace and security.

What has changed, UC Berkeley political science Professor T.J. Pempel said in an e-mail, is the U.S. has a new president with an unconventional and unpredictable approach to foreign policy:

Things are more frightening today than lots of times in the past but mostly because we know that the North has nuclear weapons and more effective missiles than before ... and also because with Donald Trump in the White House it is hard to have faith in anything like traditional diplomacy or US policy consistency. (Trump a day or two ago said something to the effect that "I talked to the experts for 15 minutes and I never realized how complicated the North Korean problem is." Even non-experts who follow foreign policy with any regularity know how complicated it is)

That said, we have had lots of spirals of rhetoric and even a bit of shooting in the past (North's sinking of the [South Korean naval vessel] Choenan and shelling of Yongpyong island in 2010 for example). So aside from the two points above I don't see this period as especially unusual.

There is no doubt that tensions between the United States and North Korea are escalating, with leaders of both countries ramping up saber-rattling dialogue. U.S. President Donald Trump has been leveraging China to intervene on the matter but saying the U.S. will "deal" with North Korea even if China does not.

During the first week of April 2017, the North Koreans tested a ballistic missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan. In response, the U.S. sent a Navy strike group to the Korean peninsula in a show of force. Contrary to the headline of the clickbait article, North Korea currently does not have the military capability of launching a missile that could reach the continental U.S., but many countries around the world are worried that they might soon. Experts are working under the assumption that the North Korea has untested intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] that could be brought online in a few years.

When the Washington Post asked Philip E. Coyle, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, whether Americans living on the West Coast should be "freaking out," he responded:

Yes, as a looming threat, not a current threat. North Korea does not yet have a long-range missile that can reach California. North Korean missiles can’t even reach Hawaii, but time is not on our side.

Though the threat to the mainland United States posed by North Korea acquiring nuclear ICBMs is legitimate, and the statement made by the country's foreign ministry is apparently real, the latter was made before President Trump sent a U.S. naval fleet to the Korean peninsula. TwoFeed.org made it appear the North Korea statement had been issued as a response to the U.S. move, as the threat of imminent war with North Korea generates more fear — and clicks — in a headline.


TwoFeed.org.   "Global War Approaches: North Korea Warns: “If a Single Bullet Is Fired We Will Nuke the United States."     7 April 2017.

Nichols, Michelle.   "U.S. Says 'All Options on Table' to Deal with North Korea."     Reuters.   8 March 2017.

Schwarz, Tim et al.   "North Korea Issues Warning as US Strike Group Heads to Korean Peninsula."     CNN.   13 April 2017.

Fifield, Anna.   "Will North Korea Fire a Missile Capable of Hitting the U.S. Mainland? Probably."     The Washington Post.   5 April 2017.

Warrick, Joby.   "As North Korea’s Arsenal Grows, Experts See Heightened Risk of ‘Miscalculation.’"     The Washington Post.   11 March 2017.

Park, Ju-min, and Jack Kim. "North Korea Test-Fires Missile Into Sea Ahead of Trump-Xi Summit."     Reuters.   5 April 2017.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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