In response to this weekend's joint US-South Korean naval exercises in the Sea of Japan, North Korea today said it will launch a "sacred war" and use its "nuclear deterrent" to crush the imperialists and its puppet regime.

The naval exercises, which are to start Sunday, are said to include 20 ships and submarines, 100 aircraft and 8,000 sailors. After a protest from China, the exercises were moved from the South China Sea to the Sea of Japan. A statement released today from the North Korean National Defence Commission said (via the official North Korean news agency KCNA):

The army and people of the DPRK will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war.

Visitng South Korea last week to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a press conference that new sanctions were being placed on North Korea in response to the alleged sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan last March: "First, we will implement new country-specific sanctions aimed at North Korea's sale and procurement of arms and related materiel and the procurement of luxury goods and other illicit activities." Tomorrow's naval exercises are a message to North Korea that the US and South Korea won't tolerate the sinking of ships. But even if the North did sink the Cheonan, which also killed 46 South Korean sailors, the only response has been to throw accusations at Kim Jong-il and the North.

And not everyone in South Korea is so sure that North Korea was behind the sinking of the Cheonan. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times:

Two South Korean-born U.S. academics have joined the chorus of skepticism, holding a news conference this month in Tokyo to voice their suspicions about the "smoking gun:" a piece of torpedo propeller with a handwritten mark in blue ink reading "No. 1" in Korean.

"You could put that mark on an iPhone and claim it was manufactured in North Korea," scoffed one of the academics, Seunghun Lee, a professor of physics at the University of Virginia.

The report also quotes a member of the international team of investigators who said he was removed from the panel for expressing doubts about whether the North really had sunk the Cheonan:

I couldn't find the slightest sign of an explosion," said Shin Sang-chul, a former shipbuilding executive-turned-investigative journalist. "The sailors drowned to death. Their bodies were clean. We didn't even find dead fish in the sea."

Crazy threats from North Korea are nothing new, and they would be even funnier than they already are if human lives weren't ultimately on the line. But this year has seen a spike in verbal and, possibly, deadly threats and actions. Kim Jong-il is rumored to have had a stroke in recent years, and may also have cancer, and experts say he is grooming his youngest son, Kim Jong-un to take over as head of state after winning a power struggle with loafer wearing older brother Kim Jong-nam. Whatever ends up happening, it will be interesting, and scary, to watch.

Below is a short compilation of North Korea's phallic ballistic missile propaganda:

[Image via]