North Korea Warns U.S. Attacking Kim Jong Un Would End 'Empire of America'

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Army personnel and spectators gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on July 6 to celebrate the successful test launch of intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14 in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on July 7. KCNA/REUTERS

North Korea has again vowed to defend itself against what it considers an aggressive U.S. presence in the region. And this time it is calling out a key member of President Donald Trump's administration: Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Official outlet Rodong Sinmun fired back Monday at remarks made earlier this month by Mattis, in which he suggested the U.S. take greater action against North Korea's recent military buildup. "Mattis is the peerless bellicose element well known to be a 'war-maniac' and 'rabid dog' in the overseas aggression wars. It is ridiculous, indeed, that such warmonger talked about 'non-military counteraction' and 'diplomatic solution,'" the newspaper wrote, likely referencing Mattis's "mad dog" nickname.

That same day, a separate Rodong Sinmun article called a U.S. strike against North Korea "a very foolish act of precipitating self-ruin" that would effectively put an end to "the empire of America." The words came in response to the Trump White House's recent announcement that Washington's "era of strategic patience" with North Korea had concluded.

Both Washington and Pyongyang have shot heated statements at each other since the latter managed to test-fire its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this month. Over the past few days, North Korea's government-controlled media has released a series of charged commentaries attacking political and defense officials in the U.S. as well as in regional allies Japan and South Korea, among other foes of Kim Jong Un's government. 

Related: North Korea stamps show missiles aimed at the U.S. Capitol as part of its anti-American month celebrations

RTX3AE8E Army personnel and spectators gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on July 6 to celebrate the successful test launch of intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14 in this photo, released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on July 7. KCNA/via REUTERS

While the U.S. enjoys a significant tactical advantage over North Korea, it's been projected that a conflict between the two nations could kill at least one million people, even without the use of nuclear weapons.

North Korea argues that its nuclear weapons and recently developed ICBMs are necessary to ensure its survival against hostile foreign powers such as the U.S., which, along with a number of other countries and organizations, accuses Kim's government of perpetrating vast human rights abuses. North Korea denies this and charges the U.S. with pursuing an imperialistic foreign policy around the globe.

RTX3BIY6 A satellite image of the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon nuclear plant in North Korea by Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North, released on July 14. Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North/Handout via REUTERS

Despite the heated rhetoric, the two countries have not fought each other outright since the 1950s, when North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and China, clashed with its southern rival, South Korea, supported by the U.S. and the U.N. That conflict is considered one of the first international proxy battles of the Cold War and paved the way for current tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

In April, Trump responded to reports that North Korea was planning on pursuing a sixth nuclear weapons test by expanding the U.S.'s military presence in Asia-Pacific and threatening force. North Korea responded with an unprecedented rate of missile launches. ultimately leading to the successful test of the Hwasong-14, which coincided with Independence Day. The weapon marks the first North Korean projectile that experts believe has the capability to hit parts of the U.S., which North Korea says it would not hesitate to do if faced with an invasion.