Seoul, South Korea | AFP | Nuclear-armed North Korea announced a detailed plan Thursday to send a salvo of four missiles over Japan and towards the US territory of Guam, raising the stakes in a stand-off with President Donald Trump and mocking him as “bereft of reason”.
The scheme to target the island, a key US military stronghold, was intended to “signal a crucial warning” as “only absolute force” would have an effect on the US leader, the North said.
The declaration came after Trump boasted on Twitter that America’s nuclear arsenal was “far stronger and more powerful than ever before”.
Earlier, Trump stunned the world with a bold message to leader Kim Jong-Un that appeared to borrow from Pyongyang’s own rhetorical arsenal, saying the North faced “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
The war of words over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes is raising fears of a miscalculation that could lead to catastrophic consequences on the Korean peninsula and beyond.
Last month the North carried out two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile, bringing much of the US mainland within its range.
The region was facing “a mini Cuban Missile Crisis”, John Delury, professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University, told AFP.
The European Union announced Thursday that it was expanding its North Korean sanctions blacklist, adding nine individuals and four entities, after repeated violation of UN resolutions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
– Unusual detail –
Trump’s “fire and fury” remarks were “a load of nonsense”, said General Kim Rak-Gyom, the commander of the North’s missile forces, according to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.
“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason,” he added in a statement.
The military would complete the Guam plan by mid-August and submit it to Kim Jong-Un for consideration, he said.
The distinctively precise statement said the four missiles would be launched simultaneously and overfly the Japanese prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi.
They would have a flight time of 17 minutes 45 seconds, travel 3,356.7 kilometres (around 2,086 miles) and come down 30 to 40 kilometres away from Guam, it said — which would put the impact points just outside US territorial waters.
Japan, which has in the past warned it would shoot down any North Korean missiles that threaten its territory, responded that it could “never tolerate” provocations from the reclusive state.
The western Pacific island of Guam is home to US strategic assets including long-range bombers and military jets and submarines, which are regularly deployed for shows of force in and near the Korean peninsula, to Pyongyang’s fury.