“A nuclear war may break out at any moment," said Kim In Ryong, North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, according to CNN. The tough words were pronounced from the floor of the U.N. headquarters in New York. Such ominous warning by one of Kim Jong-un’s top diplomats comes because the United States is quoted to be repeatedly insulting the dignity of North Korea and preparing war plans to oust Kim from power.

The regime might have strong reasons for issuing that threat at this particular time. According to the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Kelly Magsamen), heard by CNN, some of the intensification of the rhetoric is to be credited in part to “the classic bluster, but it is also brinkmanship on their part and Kim Jong-un is notorious for brinkmanship.”

Escalating rhetoric

A United States intelligence official, CNN reports, said that North Korea is escalating its rhetoric because Kim wants nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of the regime and because he wants some kind of security arrangement with America.

One of the CIA’s top analysts on North Korea recently suggested that while Kim may sound unhinged he is also strategic in his thinking. On October 4, Deputy Assistant Director of CIA’s Korean Mission Center (Young Lee) said in an interview with CNN that Kim “is a rational actor. I think his long-term goal is very clear: to come to some kind of a big power agreement with the United States and remove U.S. forces from the peninsula.”

More than 28 thousand U.S. troops are now stationed in South Korea and Kim’s regime often tells its people that Americans are constantly threatening them. But neither side appears willing to back down. Just last month, President Donald Trump said at the opening of the U.N.

General Assembly that if North Korea attacks the U.S. or any of its allies “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

On Monday, North Korea’s strongman at the United Nations appeared to counter that promise saying that the entire U.S. mainland is within North Korea’s firing range. The same day, another North Korean official, heard by CNN, said that his country would not negotiate with the U.S.

until it has long-range missiles capable to reach the East Coast of the United States, a long time goal of the regime.

North Korea’s real capabilities

Today missile experts are divided on whether North Korea’s words on its nuclear capabilities are idle talk or a real possibility. Some believe that North Korea may have that capability now, but others say they need to tweak their current missiles to be able to reach the West Coast.

That is the case of Michael Elleman, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He said in an interview with CNN that “there would have several options one is to use the engine on a particular missile but paired with another one so it produces twice the thrust or forcing action to lift it into space and then place a larger second stage on there, which allows it to carry one or two warheads to any place in the continental United States.”

Experts say that North Koreans also have to test whether a nuclear missile can survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. They also have to successfully test the missile guidance for accuracy. But the truth is that the regime might still be only a couple of years away from having a missile fully capable of striking the East Coast of the United States.