North Korea details Guam missile plan as
it scoffs at Trump
Send a link to a friend
[August 10, 2017]
By Christine Kim and Martin Petty
SEOUL/GUAM (Reuters) - North Korea
dismissed warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that it would face
"fire and fury" if it threatened the United States and outlined detailed
plans on Thursday for a missile strike near the U.S. Pacific territory
Experts in South Korea said the plans unveiled by the reclusive North
ratcheted up risks significantly, since Washington was likely to view
any missile aimed at its territory as a provocation, even if launched as
North Korea's apparently rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons
and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled tensions
that erupted into a war of words between Washington and Pyongyang this
week, unnerving regional powers and global investors.
World stocks fell for a third day, with shares in Seoul slumping to a
seven-week low, after North Korea said it was finalizing plans to fire
four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land 30-40 km (18-25
miles) from Guam, adding detail to a plan first announced on Wednesday.
Guam, a tropical island more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles) to the
southeast of North Korea, is home to about 163,000 people and a U.S.
Navy installation that includes a submarine squadron, a Coast Guard
group and an air base.
As announced by North Korea, the planned path of the missiles would
cross some of the world's busiest sea and air traffic routes.
The North Korean army would complete its plans in mid-August, ready for
leader Kim Jong Un's order, state-run KCNA news agency reported, citing
General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean
"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. "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."
While North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States and
its allies, the report was unusual in its detail. It follows two
successful tests of an intercontinental missile by the isolated state in
July and a series of other missile tests.
"Even if the North's missiles do not hit the ocean territory of Guam,
the U.S. will not tolerate such a provocation simply because it is a
severe threat to its national security," said Cha Do-hyeogn, visiting
researcher at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
Masao Okonogi, professor emeritus at Japan's Keio University, said
before the latest KCNA report that Pyongyang may be issuing a warning or
advance notice of changes to its missile testing program rather than
threatening an attack.
"I believe this is a message saying they plan to move missile tests from
the Sea of Japan to areas around Guam," he told Reuters. "By making this
advance notice, they are also sending a tacit message that what they are
going to do is not an actual attack."
Major airlines that fly over the region however said they had so far
made no plans to change flight paths.
"Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and
only absolute force can work on him," KCNA said of Trump. Trump had said
on Tuesday that any threats by North Korea would be "met with fire and
fury like the world has never seen."
Visitors and residents on Guam appeared to be taking things in their
stride. The main beach front on the island was packed with tourists
dozing under trees or on the sun loungers of five-star hotels lined up
before a calm sea.
[to top of second column]
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts with scientists and
technicians of the DPRK Academy of Defence Science after the
test-launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in
this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News
Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS
Governor Eddie Calvo said Guam had experienced a Japanese invasion
in World War Two and countless earthquakes and super-typhoons, and
there was no U.S. community better prepared to meet the North Korean
"We are concerned about these threats but at the same time we also
want to make sure people don't panic and go on with their lives.
Enjoy the beaches," he said.
Lee Choon-geun, senior research fellow at South Korea’s state-run
Science and Technology Policy Institute, said there was a risk that
any missile could land much closer to Guam than planned.
"The United States will consider it an apparent attack if it lands
within its territorial waters and, given the risks involved, will
most likely try to shoot them down before they land anywhere close
to Guam and its territorial sea," Lee told Reuters.
"This could elevate the threats to an unprecedented level."
The U.S. Seventh Fleet currently has six Aegis ballistic missile
defense ships in the region capable of targeting North Korean
missiles, and Japan has a further four. Guam also has a Terminal
High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, similar to
one recently installed in South Korea.
Japan could legally intercept a North Korean missile headed toward
Guam, its defense minister said on Thursday, but experts believe
Japan does not currently have the capability to do so.
The United States and South Korea remain technically still at war
with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a
truce, not a peace treaty.
Tension in the region has risen since North Korea carried out two
nuclear bomb tests last year and the intercontinental missile tests,
all in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. 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 issued a stark warning on
Wednesday, telling Pyongyang it would lose any arms race or
"The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead
to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people," Mattis
said in a statement, using the initials for North Korea's official
name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
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. The U.N. Security Council
unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday.
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Susan Heavey and John
Walcott in WASHINGTON, Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, William Mallard, Tim
Kelly, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg in TOKYO, and John Ruwitch in
SHANGHAI; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Nick Macfie)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.