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Chance for North Korea attack small but frightening

After weeks of warlike rhetoric, North Korea has declared that nuclear bomb building and a stronger economy are the nation's top priorities. Author Gordon Chang says questions about Kim Jong Un's experience makes what path he'll choose unclear. (AP Photo/KCNA via KNS)

After weeks of warlike rhetoric, North Korea has declared that nuclear bomb building and a stronger economy are the nation’s top priorities.

North Korea’s “nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth,” according to a statement issued by state media.

The announcement follows near-daily threats from Pyongyang, including vows of nuclear strikes on South Korea and the U.S. Some see a full-scale North Korean attack as unlikely, but others say Kim Jong Un is an untested leader and we can’t be certain.

“The thing about Kim Jong Un is that we don’t know how experienced he is,” Gordon Chang, author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World,” tells KIRO Radio Seattle’s Morning News.

“His dad and granddad were very good at killing people, but they knew where the line was, and so they never provoked the international community to retaliate,” says Chang. “Kim Jong Un very well may not know where that line is, and that is what really concerns all of us.”

One reason he’s making so many threats is because his strength as a leader is unproven, says Chang.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why we hear all these threats because he’s trying to consolidate his position, which he hasn’t done.”

Kim recently released a photograph of his war room – with his generals standing in front of a map that was clearly labeled, according to the translation, “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan” and showing lines leading from North Korea to the cities of Honolulu, San Diego, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Chang says the content of the image was no accident.

“There are no coincidences in North Korea, so it was meant to scare us, and to a certain extent it does, because Armageddon is frightening, even if we think the chance of it is very small.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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