A lesson for Kim Jong Un in the death of Qassem Soleimani

But behind North Korea’s colorful threats was always an important message: Pyongyang is developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US, so decision makers in Washington will think twice about whether to conduct a so-called “bloody nose” strike or, say, kill a general whom is deemed a terrorist and an imminent threat.

This is likely the lens through which North Korea views the Trump administration’s decision to kill Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike on Friday, a strike that has thrown the Middle East into crisis and inflamed tensions between Tehran and Washington even further. Washington didn’t have to fear nuclear retaliation with Iran. But it does with North Korea.

“North Korea is right next to Iran on the state sponsor of terror list. And the administration is now justifying the assassination of Soleimani by calling him a terrorist,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation for American Scientists.

Soleimani’s killing, Mount said, would likely strengthen North Korea’s resolve to expand its nuclear deterrent.