South Koreans consider options for North Korean nuclear threat

South Korean analysts are divided as to the purpose of North Korean's recent nuclear threats on the United States and elsewhere.

Some analysts think North Korea's program is less a menace to American shores than it is an attempt to win a stronger bargaining position for international aid. Others think the nuclear posturing is meant to show domestic strength or deter the U.S. and South Korea from intervening militarily, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

"They're not going to attack anybody," Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea at Seoul's Kookmin University, said, according to McClatchy Newspapers. "They need nukes for almost exclusively defensive purposes, to make sure that young, fat Marshal Kim Jong Un will not suffer the sorry fate of that tall, thin Col. (Moammar) Gadhafi."

North Korea's leader recently sent mixed messages to the world about the country's military intentions. Kim Jong Un recently hosted former American basketball star Dennis Rodman in North Korea. Rodman said Jong Un urged him to ask President Barack Obama to call the North Korean leader. Shortly after the development, North Korea's state media released a Foreign Ministry statement that spoke of waging nuclear war.

South Korea and the U.S. are searching for a strategy to minimize the risk posed by North Korea as it prepares for the worst. Officials want to deter North Korea and make it unlikely that small conflicts will turn into a nuclear incident.

"Unless South Korea and the United States are determined to have a nuclear war, then North Korea is able to continue its provocations and attacks because they know there is this limitation," Kwon Young-hae, South Korea's former defense minister, said, according to McClatchy Newspapers.

While South Korea did not counterattack in March 2010 after North Korea was accused of sinking a South Korean naval ship, killing 46 sailors, South Korean leadership vowed to forcefully respond if its neighbor attacks again, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

"If there is any military provocation by North Korea, we will strongly retaliate," Shim Yoon-joe, a member of the country's ruling party, said, according to McClatchy Newspapers.