North Korean state media has outlined details of the country’s Guam strike plan expected to be ready by mid-August. The attack will reportedly include four missiles fired over Japan and landing within a few dozen kilometers of US territory.
Continuing the heated exchange with US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media outlet KCNA said that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, will be presented with an elaborate plan of the attack by mid-August, Reuters reported.
The plan envisions launching four Hwasong-12 rockets that would“cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan,” the report says, citing General Kim Rak Gyom.
The missiles are set to “fly 3,356.7km (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds” before practically reaching the shores of Guam, landing in the waters just “30-40km away.”
Pyongyang also ridiculed Trump’s promise to counter any incoming threats from the North with “fire and fury,” labelling the remark a “load of nonsense” and in its turn vowing to act with “absolute force.”
Trump’s initial remark courted controversy, prompting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reassure Americans that North Korea poses “no immediate danger” to US, while Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that Washington is sure in its military preeminence, urging North Korea to refrain from “consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Trump’s national security aide Sebastian Gorka compared the current escalation between US and North Korea to the Cuban crisis of 1962, calling on US lawmakers to back Trump’s stance in the unfolding crisis.
"This is analogous to the Cuban missile crisis. We need to come together," Gorka said in an interview to Fox and Friends on Wednesday, recalling that “during the Cuban missile crisis, we stood behind JFK.”
Echoing Trump’s remark, Gorka also warned the self-isolated nation against “testing America.”
Speaking about Washington’s military edge, he described the US as “not just a superpower” but a “hyperpower,” at the same time playing down the dangers posed by the North, calling it a “very, very insignificant threat in terms of scale.”
While Trump’s sharp tone has given rise to concern within the part of the US establishment, with Senator John McCain casting doubt that the US leader is ready back up his rhetoric with real actions, others appeared to be quite enthusiastic, estimating US chances in a face-to-face military confrontation.
Retired Gen. Tom McInerney argued that the US would emerge victorious, with its ability to level North Korea within 15 minutes in case it launches an attack on South Korea.
“If he [ Trump] gets our full nuclear retaliatory capability, within minutes after one round going into Seoul, there will be nothing left,” McInerney told Fox News on Monday.
Moscow, meanwhile, once again appealed for both sides to show restraint and to resume dialogue to defuse the tensions building up in the region.
The plan will then go to the commander in chief of North Korea’s nuclear force and “wait for his order,” Kim was quoted by KCNA as saying.
He called it a “historic enveloping fire at Guam.”
A day after evoking the use of overwhelming US military might, Trump touted America’s atomic supremacy. From the New Jersey golf resort where he’s vacationing, he tweeted that his first order as president was to “renovate and modernize” an arsenal that is “now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”
It was a rare public flexing of America’s nuclear might. And Trump’s boasting only added to the confusion over his administration’s approach to dealing with North Korea’s expanding nuclear capabilities on a day when his top national security aides wavered between messages of alarm and reassurance.
Echoing Trump’s martial tone, Mattis said North Korea should stand down its nuclear weapons program and “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” As seldom as it is for a president to speak of using nuclear missiles, the reference to the “destruction” of a foreign people is equally rare.
The small U.S. territory of Guam has become a focal point after North Korea's army threatened to use ballistic missiles to create an "enveloping fire" around the island. The exclamation came after President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang of "fire and fury like the world has never seen." Here's a look at the U.S. military's role on the island, which became a U.S. territory in 1898.
There are two major bases on Guam: Andersen Air Force Base in the north and Naval Base Guam in the south. They are both managed under Joint Base Marianas. The tourist district of Tumon, home to many of Guam's hotels and resorts, is in between.
The naval base dates to 1898, when the U.S. took over Guam from Spain after the Spanish-American War. The air base was built in 1944, when the U.S. was preparing to send bombers to Japan during World War II.
Today, Naval Base Guam is the home port for four nuclear-powered fast attack submarines and two submarine tenders.
Andersen Air Force Base hosts a Navy helicopter squadron and Air Force bombers that rotate to Guam from the U.S. mainland. It has two 2-mile (3-kilometer) long runways and large fuel and munitions storage facilities.
Altogether, 7,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed on Guam. Most are sailors and airmen. The military plans to move thousands of U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa in southern Japan.
Guam's total population is 160,000.
Guam is strategically located a short flight from the Korean peninsula and other potential flashpoints in East Asia. Seoul is 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) to the northwest, Tokyo is 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) north and Taipei is 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) west.
Because Guam is a U.S. territory, the U.S. military may launch forces from there without worrying about upsetting a host nation that may object to U.S. actions.
The naval base is an important outpost for U.S. fast-attack submarines that are a key means for gathering intelligence in the region, including the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea where China has been building military bases on man-made islands.
- Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford, lists the options open to Western leaders
- He discusses a limited strike, full-scale invasion, decapitation strike, nuclear strike and international action
- Donald Trump has vowed any threat to the U.S. will be met with 'fire and fury like the world has never seen'
- US officials believe Kim Jong-Un has built a miniaturized warhead and has an arsenal of 60 nuclear bombs
Option 1: A Limited Strike
Today, North Korea is far better prepared to survive even a severe air attack by the US. Its nuclear forces are not sitting ducks. It has repeatedly deployed mobile launchers so it can move and hide missiles.
The newer North Korean solid-fuelled missiles can also be launched much more quickly than the older liquid-fuelled rockets. These developments make neutralising Kim’s atomic warheads by a massive airstrike far from fool-proof.
2: Full-Scale Invasion
North Korea has no navy to speak of to protect its coastline, and it’s tempting to imagine US Marines pouring ashore and marching to Pyongyang, just as they did in October 1950. But this time the North Korean army – ill-equipped but vast in size – would be waiting. To win quickly and decisively the US would require the bulk of its military man power to be deployed to Korea.
But Washington has other problems, from Afghanistan to Syria. War in Korea would tie down the army and marines – unless South Korea’s 650,000 troops also took part. However, South Korea is reluctant to engage in a pre-emptive war that would threaten Seoul and other cities with destruction from the North.
Then there is China. It is vehemently hostile to the US THAAD missile defence system that has recently been deployed in South Korea. Beijing’s fear is the real target of any US military action in the region is ultimately China. To act without being sure of Chinese neutrality runs the risk of a wider and far more perilous conflict – World War III in all probability.
Even if China was ready to accept the fall of Kim’s regime, a conventional invasion would not be quick enough to prevent Kim launching some kind of nuclear strike, as well as firing off his stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.
The North has as many as 60 nuclear bombs, according to US intelligence. If only a couple were successfully launched at South Korea, the scale of the casualties would be horrendous.
3: A Decapitation Strike
A successful set of airstrikes on North Korea’s nuclear stockpile will not halt Kim’s ambitions. As long as the regime survives, it will be attempt to rebuild. So knocking out the North Korean leadership in a so-called decapitation strike is being widely touted in Washington.
Smart bombs could surely locate and kill Kim and his key commanders before they could organise a deadly counter-attack?
Unfortunately, a successful strike wouldn’t stop a barrage of a rockets being fired in instant retaliation.
In any case, assassinating foreign leaders is easier said than done. It would be a very lucky strike that took out Kim and his fellow leaders. If it failed, Kim’s revenge would be indiscriminate attacks aimed at South Korea, Japan and any US bases within range.
In practice, a decapitation strike would mean all-out war. And even if that was successful, a US-South Korean occupation of North Korea could face guerrilla resistance using Kim’s poison gas and bacteriological weapons.
Nor would China – faced with the prospect of millions of refugees – be pleased by a speedy collapse of Kim’s regime.
4: A US nuclear strike
Hotheads in Washington talk about using America’s massive nuclear superiority to ‘eliminate’ North Korea as a threat once and for all.
But such an attack would kill millions of Kim’s long-suffering subjects, making a mushroom-cloud sized mockery of America’s moral case against the regime. The fall-out from a US first-strike would shatter alliances and trigger massively increased defence spending by China and Russia.
5: Pressure on China
China remains the conduit for much of Kim’s most threatening technology. US intelligence fears that even if the Chinese government could be persuaded to stop providing assistance, North Korea will be able to bribe Chinese manufacturers to share their military secrets.
Whatever role it plays in limiting North Korea’s belligerence, China will want a guarantee of North Korea’s survival as a state in return. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has suggested he could live with that. Now he has to persuade Trump.
6: International action
The UN Security Council has backed sanctions since Pyongyang started its nuclear tests a decade ago, and last week reinforced that strategy. This means Beijing and Moscow agree in principle with what the US and its allies want.
China and Russia are North Korea’s lifeline to the outside world. They could strangle the regime if they acted together to cut trade and transport links. But then Beijing and Moscow might become targets of Kim's missiles, too. Even if prepared for that risk, presidents Xi and Putin would demand a high price in exchange for their help.