Poll: Most Americans see North Korea as a ‘very serious threat’

The percentage of Americans who feel North Korea poses a severe threat to the United States has surged by double digits in the past five months, according to a new poll from CNN.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans – 62 percent – say North Korea poses a "very serious threat" to the U.S., jumping 14 points from a survey in March. Another 23 percent say North Korea represents a "moderately serious threat."

Concern over the Hermit Kingdom is the highest it's been in polling stretching back to 2000, according to CNN, and eclipses the 52 percent of respondents who considered the country a very serious threat in June 2009, shortly after North Korea conducted its second nuclear test.

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Meanwhile, worry over the threat posed by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has fallen slightly from 70 percent in March to virtually tie North Korea at 64 percent as a very serious threat, according to CNN's survey.

Only a third of respondents – 33 percent – think Iran poses a very serious threat, down from 50 percent in 2002 and 49 percent in September 2015, although 38 percent say the Islamic Republic still constitutes a moderately serious threat.

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China, considered a very serious threat by 46 percent of people in 1999, only reaches a high level of concern for 20 percent in the most recent polling.

CNN's poll was conducted Aug. 3-6, after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially reach Alaska and President Donald Trump signed a bill that included new sanctions against Pyongyang. Polling also concluded before reports this week that North Korea had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could be fitted to a missile.

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A plurality of poll respondents – 47 percent – described North Korea's weapons capabilities as "a major problem," whereas 32 percent said it constituted a crisis. But concern has clearly grown: In 2003, a 59 percent majority felt North Korea was a problem but not a crisis, while 22 percent said it was a crisis.

Nearly 8 in 10 people also say they believe North Korea is capable of launching a missile that could reach the U.S., including Hawaii, and half favor the U.S. taking military action against Pyongyang's weapons-testing escalations.

Trump on Tuesday suggested he may favor such a response, telling reporters in New Jersey that North Korea "best not make any more threats to the United States" and threatening to hit the country "with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

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On Wednesday, the president added assurances that the U.S. nuclear capability is "now far stronger and more powerful than ever before."

"Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world," he tweeted.

Still, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the heated rhetoric exchanged between the two countries was not indicative of "any imminent threat."

"Americans should sleep well at night," Tillerson told reporters, with "no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days."

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