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Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad and north Korean nuclear test.

A senior North Korean official told CNN Thursday that the country will use a nuclear weapon to strike the American mainland if the United States “forced their hand.”

The rare interview was conducted with Park Yong Chol, deputy director of the regime-linked DPRK think thank called the Institute for Research into National Reunification.

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Park said North Korea needs to continue developing its nuclear arsenal, which he said can hit American soil, to “counter the U.S. threat.”

When questioned about” human rights abuses in North Korea, Park fired back, “The U.S. President and other high-ranking administration officials have acknowledged really severe forms of punishment on inmates in detention. If you talk about human rights in the DPRK, we will talk about human rights in the U.S.”

Park’s threat to use nuclear weapons if the United States “forced its hands” is particularly worrisome because of the country’s close links with Iran and Tehran’s development of a nuclear warhead. North Korea has provided technologies to Iran, and an alleged Israeli strike on a nuclear facility under construction in northern Syria four years ago killed several North Korean scientists.

Park’s claim that North Korea can nuke the United States is not accepted by many American officials, but there is no questioning the threat to U.S. bases in South Korea.

The Breaking Defense website reported that former Pentagon strategist Van Jackson said that American missile defenses in the Pacific are “woefully outgunned” and that Patriot launchers and Navy ships could not defend American bases.

Diplomacy with North Korea not only has failed but also has allowed it to become a nuclear power.

Given North Korea’s close ties with Iran, it is far from certain that the Obama administration is not repeating the same scenario with its negotiations with the Islamic Republic over the future of its nuclear program.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.

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