Definitionsregional note: in AM, use saber-rattling
If you describe a threat, especially a threat of military action, as sabre-rattling, you do not believe that the threat will actually be carried out.
⇒ It is too early to say whether the threats are mere sabre-rattling.
⇒ ...sabre-rattling by the military.
COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers