North Korea threatens nuclear “sacred war”

Harsh words sparked by planned US military exercises.

According to North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA, the authoritarian regime will use its "nuclear deterrent" in response to joint US-South Korean war games scheduled to take place this weekend.

Tensions in the region have been rising since the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March. Pyongyang denies involvement, but an international investigation found that the sinking was caused by a North Korean torpedo.

Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul had been warming tentatively throughout the past decade, but in 2008 the election of the conservative Lee-Myung bak as president of the South led to a more hardline stance against the North. The BBC's correspondent in Seoul says that while this latest stand-off is unlikely to lead to war, it will cause concern, not least in China:

China has been urging the US and South Korea to tread very carefully. It does not want to see tensions to rise further, and there have been clear signals from Beijing that it does not think that this sort of war game being held off the coast of the Korean Peninsula at this moment is a good idea.

China's real worry is that North Korea is already very isolated, it is being squeezed diplomatically and economically; and if it is squeezed too hard, it might live up to some of these words.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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