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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 3rd, 2013
06:26 PM ET

The U.S.'s one weakness when it comes to North Korea

By Jake Tapper and Sherisse Pham

North Korea released a statement Wednesday, saying "The moment of explosion is approaching fast. No one will say if a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow ... We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge, smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified."

"That's a serious threat," says Gen. James "Spider" Marks, U.S. Army (Retired). Marks was a senior intelligence officer based in Korea. That threat, added Marks with a smile, is "version 943."

But the U.S. has a weakness when it comes to the hermit kingdom.

"We've never penetrated their inner workings of governance," said Marks. "To better understand their intentions, you have to be inside. And we don't have that type of inside look."

The posturing and escalating threats from North Korea are not unexpected, the country has been threatening war for decades. Most observers say North Korea is still years away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile, but it does have plenty of conventional military firepower, including medium-range ballistic missiles that can carry high explosives for hundreds of miles.

"The United States and all the other nations can read the capabilities of the North Koreans, we've never been good at reading their intentions," said Marks.

Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current young North Korean leader, was the real warrior, said Marks. "He was the guy who really understood the costs of going to war."

His grandson, current leader Kim Jong Un, "has to create his own credibility, and he's doing that with the military," said Marks.

U.S. officials say they are not seeing any unusual military movements along with this threat. Based on what the U.S. can see into North Korea, the threats so far are all rhetoric.

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