North Korean soldiers are said to be sleeping without removing their boots since they have been told a war with the US could emerge any moment. According to a Russian expert, who visited Pyongyang recently and spoken to senior North Korean figures, the overall mood at the Kim Jong-un regime suggests there is no doubt on whether a full-fledged conflict will break out. The only question that remains is that when will it break out.

Alexander Vorontsov, chief of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russia Academy of Sciences, visited North Korea in November 2017 at the height of tensions between North Korea and the outside world.

Writing on the US-based website 38 North, Vorontsov said North Korean diplomats the foreign ministry are certain that the US is determined to wage a war against their country even when Seoul is oblivious to Trump's administration's motives.

"These officials were truly baffled that a majority of the South Korean population does not seem to have grasped the reality that the Trump administration, despite the risks, is inching ever closer to a preventive strike on North Korea," wrote the Russian analyst.

Even since President Donald Trump took charge of the White House, a war of words with reclusive North Korea has escalated. Alongside the trade of personal insults between the leaders of two countries, serious concerns have also been raised frequently over the possibility of a war-like scenario.

"Only one question remains: when will war break out?" officials at the North Korean foreign ministry were quoted as telling Vorontsov. They also added that the country stands resolute in achieving "nuclear parity" with the US in order to protect itself from a potential invasion.

The North has been rapidly improving its missile and nuclear programmes in recent years matching its bellicose rhetoric. Hostility against the US is nothing new in the isolated country but the alarms are being raised whether the situation has reached a tipping point given the unpredictable leadership of the 30-something Kim.

North Korea soldiers
North Korean soldiers salute at Mansudae hill in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken by Kyodo Kyodo via Reuters