North Korea has decided to once again up the rhetorical ante by threatening an attack on Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland. This comes after a litany of other threats that seemed to have been mostly ignored by the international community as a new round of UN sanctions were passed in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear weapons test.

North Korea on Tuesday said it was putting its long-range rocket units on the highest possible combat-posture level and threatened strikes targeting Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland.

The news was released by the North’s Korean Central News Agency on the third anniversary of a suspected North Korean torpedo attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 South Korean sailors. North Korea denies the warship sinking

The question seems to be whether these extreme threats actually mean North Korea is not serious or that the isolated authoritarian dictatorship is getting dangerously desperate.

“From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army will be putting in combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units including long-range artillery units strategic rocket units that will target all enemy object in U.S. invasionary bases,” the KCNA news agency said

North Korea previously threatened to strike U.S. military bases in the pacific as well as threatening a preemptive nuclear strike on Washington – though while it could hit bases in the pacific with rockets it is unlikely to be able to strike the U.S. mainland let alone Washington given its current nuclear weapons capacity.

Despite the previous threats America and South Korea conducted a joint military exercise which included the use of B-52 bombers – planes that have the capacity to drop nuclear bombs. So while in public it would seem Washington has decided not to engage in the rhetorical battle with Pyongyang on the symbolic level there may have been a response to North Korea’s rhetoric. In any case, there appears to be no end in sight to the threats from North Korea which may or may not be empty.