• With: Matt Kaminski, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Joe Rago, Allysia Finley, James Freeman

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," April 6, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," North Korea ramps up the rhetoric, issuing more threats against the United States and moving military assets that could push the region to the brink of war.

    Plus, is ObamaCare in trouble? New delays and bipartisan opposition threaten the president's health care plan.

    And Stockton, California, became the largest city in the nation to go bankrupt. Could your town be next?


    CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As they have ratcheted up their bellicose, dangerous rhetoric and some of the actions they've taken the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly, of our allies.


    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    That was Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, this week on the war-like rhetoric and actions of North Korea. Those comments were made before the North Korean army announced it was authorized to attack the United States.


    UNIDENTIFIED NORTH KOREAN NEWS ANCHOR (through translation): We will cope with the U.S. nuclear threat with a merciless nuclear attack and we will face the infiltration with a justified war. This is our military and our people's unchangeable stance. The U.S. and those followers should clearly know that everything is different in the era of respected Kim Jong Un.


    GIGOT: Those really are fighting words, but how serious a threat is it? Let's ask "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Matt Kaminski; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

    Matt, are we on the brink of war, could we be, or it's a bluff?

    MATT KAMINSKI, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: It's happened before and they've done the kind of threats. The thing about North Korea, we don't know. We don't know much about who is running North Korea. There is a new, 28, 29, 30-year-old leader in Kim Jong Un.

    GIGOT: We don't even know how old he is.

    KAMINSKI: Exactly. And is he controlled by the generals? Is he doing this to establish his own legitimacy? We have the questions. And there's a danger will North Korea if you push them too far, they might do something stupid.

    GIGOT: Push them too far, how?

    KAMINSKI: Well --

    GIGOT: They're reacting to the sanctions that the U.N. put on after the last launch and nuclear test.

    KAMINSKI: Right.

    GIGOT: How is the world supposed respond to that when it's a violation of global norms and previous U.N. actions?

    KAMINSKI: Absolutely, but you don't know because they are unpredictable and you be very careful how you manage this. I think we've responded well by saying we've moved warships into the region and we've flown nuclear bombers over North Korea. We've put missile defense batteries in Guam. And taking it very seriously. At the same time, they are probably trying to exert something from us, perhaps more money.

    GIGOT: Dan, is this a play for more money, the kind of threats in return for cash game that they've played for two decades?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY SECRETARY: Maybe. Who knows? But under the circumstances, I think you have to be very, very prepared to take

    action. Look, so --


    GIGOT: So you agree with Matt we did the right thing with that show of military deterrence?

    HENNINGER: Oh, absolutely. At the start, at the least. Let's recall that Kim Jong's predecessors, his father and grandfather thought to be quote, unquote, "more unstable than he is."


    They blew up a South Korean airliner filled with passengers. In 1983, they set off a bomb in Rangoon in Burma, killing two South Korean ministers. It was an attempt to assassinate the South Korean president.

    GIGOT: As recently as 2010, they sank a Koran ship.

    HENNINGER: Killing sailors.

    GIGOT: That's right. Your point is?

    HENNINGER: My point is they're capable of attempting, shall I say, a Pearl Harbor-type attack, and in our terms, makes no sense whatsoever. It might seem suicidal. But this young 28 year old -- I've talked to South Koreans. They're unnerved about Kim Jong Un and the fact that they don't know about him and he's been in that system his whole life.

    GIGOT: Kim, politically here at home, it's interesting, the president has taken a low profile and hasn't spoken out and left the comments to Chuck Hagel and the secretary of state, John Kerry. What's the thinking in the White House about that strategy?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Look, I think what they're trying to do here, the Obama administration should get some points because what the North Koreans are trying to do, as we've been talking about, is the same old play book. You manufacture a crisis and secure high-level talk and you get concessions from the west. So far, the Obama administration, to its credit, has not been gulled into that situation.

    GIGOT: Right.

    STRASSEL: And it has also -- and to his credit, he went out of his way to show an extra show of force as part of the annual military exercises it was doing with South Korea.