North Korea will develop a plan by mid-August to launch four intermediate range missiles at the U.S. territory of Guam before presenting it to leader Kim Jong Un who will make a decision on whether to proceed, the North’s state media said on Thursday.
The unusually detailed report on the attack plan marked a further escalation in tensions between Pyongyang and Washington after U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea earlier this week it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.
North Korea’s official news agency KCNA described Trump’s threat as a “load of nonsense”.
“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” it said of Trump, adding that it will keep closely watching the speech and behavior of the United States.
The North Korean army is developing a plan “in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the United States,” the KCNA report said. Guam 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.
“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA (Korean People’s Army) will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan,” the report said, citing General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the KPA.
“They will fly 3,356.7 km (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam.”
Tensions surged this week after Trump’s warning to the isolated state to give up its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
North Korea carried out two nuclear bomb tests last year and two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. Trump has said he will not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also issued a stark warning to North Korea on Wednesday, telling Pyongyang it should stop any actions that would lead to the “end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
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Earlier on Wednesday, Guam Governor Eddie Calvo dismissed the threat and said the island was prepared for “any eventuality” with strategically placed defenses. He said he had been in touch with the White House and there was no change in the threat level.
North Korea, pursuing missile and nuclear weapons programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, accuses the Washington of devising a “preventive war” and has said 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 Saturday.
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U.S military officials played down the potential for military conflict. Three U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had not moved additional assets into the region after North Korea’s threats against Guam.
“Just because the rhetoric goes up, doesn’t mean our posture changes,” one official said. “The only time our posture goes up is based on facts, not because of what Kim and Trump say to each other,” the official added.
While Trump said the nuclear arsenal was more powerful than ever before, U.S. officials say it takes decades to actually modernize nuclear weapons. Trump signed an executive order in January to initiate a review of the country’s nuclear policy.
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