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Just How Dangerous Is North Korea?

Over two years ago, when North Korea hacked email accounts at Sony Pictures, including of people I knew, to prevent the debut of a movie the NORKS disliked, I realized their leaders were not quite the harmless cartoon or animatronic characters popular at our cinemas. These days they're posting to YouTube with videos of their own showing their not insignificant forces taking out a U.S. aircraft carrier and blasting off ICBMs capable, sooner than later, of reaching, well, those same Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, not to mention a fair portion of the western USA.

Is it time for us to take them seriously?  I would say so -- and so would, evidently, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who would not close off the idea of a preemptive strike on North Korea should their nuclear ambitions get out of hand.  Tillerson had been visiting Japan, South Korea, and China primarily to discuss those ambitions.

Sanctions, as of now, are on the table. The NORKS are not amused:

North Korea has nothing to fear from any U.S. move to broaden sanctions aimed at cutting it off from the global financial system and will pursue "acceleration" of its nuclear and missile programs, a North Korean envoy told Reuters on Tuesday.

This includes developing a "pre-emptive first strike capability" and an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), said Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

Bluster? South Korea is not exactly a technological backwater -- we just learned their Samsung Smart TVs are recording our every utterance, even when we think we've turned them off.  It would be naive to think that a great deal of this expertise had not "drifted" north.  Even back in 2014, when the North Koreans broke into Sony under the moniker of the Guardians of Peace, they exhibited considerable knowledge of not only our computer systems, but our mores, exposing Hollywood executives to accusations of racism that ended up forcing them to grovel before Al Sharpton for absolution.

As ironic as that might have been, now the stakes are a lot higher. Washington is having joint military drills with Seoul that today apparently prompted yet another missile test from Pyongyang  along with this response from Deputy Ambassador Choe Myong Nam:

In the light of such huge military forces involved in the joint military exercises, we have no other choice but to continue with our full acceleration of the nuclear programs and missile programs. It is because of these hostile activities on the part of the United States and South Korea.We strengthen our national defense capability as well as pre-emptive strike capabilities with nuclear forces as a centerpiece.

While our media and minds are turned to healthcare debates, seemingly mythological ties with Russia, and other endless forms of internal backbiting, North Korea is not-so-quietly emerging as the issue -- and the most dangerous phenomenon -- of our time.  All others may soon find positions on the proverbial back burner.  Or, if not on the back burner, on side burners, as we discover more links between the more advanced NORKS, the Iranians, and various terror groups who may already be clients of their technology.