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article imageNorth Korea willing to nuke USA, looks to become economic power

By Brian Booker     May 7, 2015 in World
More rhetoric is seeping out of North Korea, though it appears to be more measured than usual. During an exclusive sit down with CNN, a leading North Korean official said his country would use nuclear missiles if the U.S. “forced their hand.”
The CNN interview offered a rare meeting with the elusive North Korean government. Park Yong Chol, a member of North Korea's inner circle, met with CNN reporters with almost no preconditions, a rarity for a government that relies on heavily scripted propaganda pieces to broadcast its messages.
Among the few preconditions was the request that CNN abandon its normal chair facing chair interview format. Instead, Park sat behind a large conference table, with portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hanging in the background.
Park is the deputy director for the DPRK Institute for Research into National Reunification, which has ties to the highest levels of the North Korean government. Before the interview even started, Park made his disdain for foreign media clear, and accused the media fabricating and spreading lies.
During the interview, questions arose concerning North Korea's alleged nuclear armament.
Park acknowledged that North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons is costing the nation in terms of both sanctions and national resources. He claimed, however, that the costly strategy is a necessary one to ensure North Korea's security.
Park also claimed that North Korea already possess the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear missile. Park said that his country would be willing to do so if necessary.
Defending North Korea and aspiring for economic might
The interview covered a range of topics. As expected, Park was largely defensive of his country and its track record. When the interviewers asked about North Korea's human rights record, Park quickly noted the “racial riots” currently taking place in the United States, and the disproportionate killing of black males by the police.
When challenged on political prisoner camps, Park claimed that North Korea was a society without political strife. He acknowledged that there were camps for regular criminals, but noted America's high prison population, and accused the United States of torturing prisoners.
Now that North Korea apparently possess the necessary nuclear armament to defend itself, Park says that the next step for his country is to become an economic power. Park asserted that North Korea is already a major power politically, ideologically, and militarily.
How North Korea will develop its economy in the face of extensive international sanctions, however, remains unclear.
Examining the claims
At least two claims made by the North Korean government deserve a closer examination. First, does the country possess the capability to launch a nuclear strike against the United States? Second, is there any clear evidence of political prisoner camps?
As of right now, US military officials believe that North Korea does possess long-range missiles capable of striking America's west coast. North Korea has also detonated nuclear weapons underground on three separate occasions.
According to experts, what the country lacks, however, is the miniaturization technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead onto a long range missile. Even if this is true, however, North Korea's continued efforts to refine its technology means that it is more likely a question of when, rather than if, the country will develop the capabilities to strike the United States.
Second, satellite evidence and first hand accounts prove that North Korea does indeed have several large prison camps, and these camps do appear to be used against potential political dissidents.
One harrowing tale of Kim Jong II's former body guard, Lee Young-guk, tells of a mass grave at the Yodok prisoner camp containing thousands of bodies. After Lee was caught trying to defect, he was sent to the camp where he was regularly beaten.
The United Nations has accused North Korea of extensive human rights abuses, an accusation which the government fiercely denies. The government alleges that the United Nations is simply trying to undermine it.
You can find the United Nations full report on North Korea's human rights abuses here.
Owing to the limited access granted to foreigners, it's difficult to confirm any happenings in North Korea, but it seems likely that the country is closing in on the capability to launch a nuclear attack against the United States, and that political prisoner camps do exist.
More about North korea, Nuclear proliferation, Kim jong un, Kim jongil
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