Jan. 11 (UPI) -- North Korean officials say there is a "misperception" that the country is acquiring advanced missile capability in order to strike the United States.
In an article in 38 North, Alexander Vorontsov, head of the Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russia Academy of Sciences, said North Korean diplomats are worried the misunderstanding is clouding perceptions of the regime's weapons program.
The diplomats told Vorontsov in November, "'it would be suicidal to attack the USA first and especially with nuclear weapons.
"We understand that it would be the last day of our country.'"
North Koreans are also genuinely worried the United States could launch a preventive war on the peninsula.
"These officials feared that the U.S. was already trying to shape the battlefield for a military operation against the North, and that South Koreans do not seem to have grasped the reality that the Trump administration is set on a course for preventive war," Vorontsov wrote.
North Koreans also told the analyst South Koreans are unprepared for U.S.-initiated military action on the peninsula.
"In my conversations in Pyongyang, senior North Korean foreign ministry officials did not conceal their surprise that Seoul failed to see the huge gap in threat perceptions between American and South Korean societies," Vorontsov stated.
"The North Koreans see growing signs, reflecting President Donald Trump's 'America First' principle, that the United States is prepared to accept the terrible loss of lives that would result from a large-scale military conflict with North Korea."
But diplomats also said they are not completely knowledgeable of how North Korea could achieve nuclear parity with a powerful United States.
"'We are diplomats, not military guys. Only our leader knows the issue in full,'" they said, according to Vorontsov.
Tensions have receded dramatically on the peninsula since North and South have held high-level talks at Panmunjom, and North Korea agreed to send its athletes to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
But North Korea remains critical of U.S. policy.
Yonhap reported Thursday North Korea's religious council strongly condemned a U.S. State Department designation of the regime as a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act.
"The United States blabbers on about religious freedom and speaks blasphemously of our republic's highest dignity," the North Korean council said, according to KCNA. "They are trying to shake the faithful's beliefs, but it is nothing more than an anachronistic delusion."
Defectors have said being found in possession of a Bible is a punishable offense in North Korea.