N Korea considers missile strike on Guam amid ‘mini nuke’ reports
GUAM/SEOUL – ReutersNorth Korea said on Aug. 9 that it is considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after President Donald Trump told the North that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury.”
The tension comes at a time when the U.S. intelligence reportedly concludes that North Korea had made a breakthrough and could now build nuclear bombs small enough to fit on missiles.
The sharp increase in tensions rattled financial markets and prompted warnings from U.S. officials and analysts not to engage in rhetorical slanging matches with North Korea.
Pyongyang said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike Guam, which is home to about 163,000 people and a U.S. military base that includes a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
A Korean People’s Army spokesman said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency the plan would be put into practice at any moment once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.
Guam Governor Eddie Calvo dismissed the North’s threat and said the island was prepared for “any eventuality” with strategically placed defences. He said he had been in touch with the White House and there was no change in the threat level.
“Guam is American soil ... We are not just a military installation,” Calvo said in an online video message.
North Korea also accused the United States of devising a “preventive war” and said in another statement that any plans to execute this would be met with an “all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the U.S. mainland”.
Washington has warned it is ready to use force if needed to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs but that it prefers global diplomatic action, including sanctions. The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Aug. 5.
Trump issued his strongest warning yet for North Korea in comments to reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said.
The Washington Post quoted a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analysis as saying officials think North Korea now has “nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery” - including in its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) - making it a potent threat against neighbors and possibly the United States.
The Pentagon did not comment on the story, but the Post said two U.S. officials familiar with the analysis had verified the assessment’s broad conclusions, and CNN said it had confirmed the report.
Experts have long differed over the North’s exact capabilities, and a similar DIA assessement four years ago was dismissed by other intelligence organisations.
But all agree it has made rapid progress under Kim Jong-Un.
The Post also reported that another intelligence assessment estimated North Korea now has up to 60 nuclear weapons, more than previously thought.
Former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried Hecker told the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists he did not think North Korea yet had sufficient missile or nuclear test experience “to field a nuclear warhead that is sufficiently small, light and robust to survive an ICBM delivery.”
North Korea has vowed that the new U.N. sanctions would not stop it from developing its nuclear arsenal, and that it would never negotiate it away.
North Korea has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile able to strike the United States and has ignored calls to halt its weapons programs.
Pyongyang says its ICBMs are a legitimate means of defense against perceived U.S. hostility, including joint military drills with South Korea.
Tens of thousands of U.S. troops remain stationed in South Korea and in nearby Japan, the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.