SEOUL – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday ordered missile units to prepare to strike the U.S. mainland and military bases, vowing to “settle accounts” after American stealth bombers flew over South Korea.
The order came as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, with tensions soaring on the Korean Peninsula, said Washington would not be cowed by Pyongyang’s bellicose threats and stood ready to respond to “any eventuality.”
Kim put his rocket units on standby at an overnight emergency meeting with top army commanders, hours after nuclear-capable U.S. B-2 stealth bombers were deployed during the ongoing joint military drills with South Korea.
In the event of any “reckless” U.S. provocation, North Korean forces should “mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland . . . military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea,” he was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency.
While North Korea has no proven ability to conduct such strikes, Kim said, “The time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists.”
The youthful leader argued that the stealth bomber flights went beyond a simple demonstration of force and amounted to a U.S. “ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost.”
The bulk of the threats emanating from Pyongyang have been dismissed as bluster. North Korea has no confirmed missile capability to reach the U.S. mainland — or, indeed, Guam or Hawaii in the Pacific.
U.S. military intelligence has noted that the North’s warlike rhetoric has not, so far, been matched by any overtly provocative troop buildup.