While Pyongyang is unlikely to risk the consequences of attacking the U.S. or South Korea, it's trying to force Washington to deliver on promises of fuel aid and other assistance that have been delayed on Capitol Hill. "While the aid to Pyongyang is based on the idea that it's in our interests to keep an unstable and dangerous regime warm and fed, Congress sees it as a bribe," says Thompson. Based on its extortionist behavior, North Korea seems to agree.
Threatening to "blow up" the U.S. isn't the smartest way to approach negotiations with Washington -- but acting crazy is the preferred North Korean strategy for getting aid from the U.S. Ahead of Tuesday's talks between the two countries, North Korea's defense minister warned that his country was ready for war and would even consider pre-emptive strikes against U.S. forces. "This is nothing new," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "The tone of their rhetoric ebbs and flows with the progress of negotiations with the U.S."