UCSB professor weighs in on N. Korea military showdown

Professor Mark Juergensmeyer visited North Korea in 1990s

POSTED: 07:05 PM PDT Apr 11, 2013    UPDATED: 02:17 PM PDT Apr 12, 2013 
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

A professor at UC Santa Barbara is weighing in on the political and military showdown with North Korea.

This week the North Korean regime said the Korean Peninsula is headed for war.

Two medium range-missiles are prepared to launch. The United States acknowledges North Korea probably has nuclear weapons that can be launched by a ballistic missile. But the U.S. also said the weapons are not reliable and may not even work properly.

Nevertheless, the North's leader, Kim Jong Un, is threatening war.

"They want to show the United States, 'Don't try to attack us because we can defend ourselves.' That's what this is all about," said Mark Juergensmeyer, UCSB professor.

Juergensmeyer was in South Korea last year and visited North Korea in the 1990s.

"And when you go to North Korea, you realize that they're really paranoid because after all, Pyongyang, their capital city, was flattened like a pancake during the Korean War by the Americans. And so they have this fantasy that Americans are just around the corner, just about to invade them again," he explained.

He said there are three things that are contributing to the growing conflict. Joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States is provoking an already tense North.

"This is a train wreck that you can see coming," said Juergensmeyer.

Also, the new leader wants to show his strength to the world. And this month marks what would have been Kim Jong Un's grandfather's 101st birthday. Kim Il Sung was the founder of North Korea which means military parades showing off weapons and soldiers.

Although this latest string of threats by North Korea, is becoming increasingly violent, Juergensmeyer believes the tense situation will blow over.