WASHINGTON — The former president of South Korea is a "rat," Hillary Clinton is a "funny lady" but "by no means intelligent," and the U.S. mainland is "similar to a boiled pumpkin."
And if the United States starts a nuclear war, North Korea "will set fire to the dens of crimes and bases of aggression with its powerful and sophisticated nuclear strike means and completely wipe them out on the earth," the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency said Monday.
Official mouthpieces have bombarded North Koreans with denunciations of their enemies and paeans to their leaders since the nation's founding in 1948. But the current barrage of threats is unusually thunderous.
The latest propaganda outburst, U.S. officials and scholars say, is intended not only to rally North Koreans behind their young new leader, Kim Jong-Un, but also to arouse the international news media and undermine the South Korean economy.
The North's threats may lack credibility, and some of its photos have been exposed as crude fakes. But its Stalin-era propaganda techniques are proving to be surprisingly effective in this age of instant news, according to Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu.
"If your objective is to reassure the domestic population of your bravery and steadfastness, it's probably effective," Cossa said in a telephone interview. "If your objective is to get on Page One of the New York Times or Bloomberg News, it's probably effective. This sort of guarantees them attention. They believe it puts pressure on South Korea to negotiate on their terms."
The threats increased expectations for the first interest- rate cut in South Korea since October. Eleven of 20 economists forecast the Bank of Korea would reduce borrowing costs to 2.5 percent from 2.75 percent, according to a Bloomberg News survey. The bank kept the rate unchanged.