Asia Pacific

North Korea threatens missile strike near key U.S. military outpost on Guam

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

Nuclear-armed North Korea revealed Wednesday that it has drafted a plan to strike the area near a major U.S. military base on the island of Guam with a barrage of missiles, state-run media said.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency, quoting a spokesman for the military’s missile forces, said in a report that the country was seriously considering such a strike option after “frequent visits to the sky above South Korea” by U.S. strategic bombers in recent months.

“The KPA (Korean People’s Army) Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam … in order to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam, including the Anderson Air Force Base,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.

Such a plan, which the report said was recommended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, would “send a serious warning signal to the U.S.”

The report said the plan would be examined and, once complete, “will be put into practice … once Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of the nuclear force of the DPRK, makes a decision.”

DPRK is the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The execution of this plan will offer an occasion for the Yankees to be the first to experience the might of the strategic weapons of the DPRK,” the report said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said two B-1B bombers from Guam had joined their counterparts from the South Korean Air Force and Air Self-Defense Force in “sequenced bilateral missions” a day earlier.

The B-1Bs first flew into Japanese airspace, where they were joined by ASDF F-2 fighter jets, and then then flew over the Korean Peninsula, where they were joined by South Korean F-15 fighters, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in a statement. The B-1Bs then performed a pass over the Pilsung Range before leaving South Korean airspace and returning to Guam.

“How we train is how we fight and the more we interface with our allies, the better prepared we are to fight tonight,” the statement quoted an unidentified B-1B pilot as saying. “The B-1 is a long-range bomber that is well-suited for the maritime domain and can meet the unique challenges of the Pacific.”

In the KCNA dispatch, the North alluded to the bomber flight, blasting “the air pirates of Guam” for appearing “in the sky above South Korea to stage a mad-cap drill simulating an actual war.”

U.S. bomber flights over the Korean Peninsula are typically flown out of Guam. In August 2016, the U.S. Air Force deployed all three of its strategic bomber types to the island, announcing that B-1Bs, B-52s and B-2 stealth bombers had been operating simultaneously in the region for the first time.

On July 30, U.S. B-1Bs flying from Guam linked up with ASDF and South Korean fighter jets in a display of the allies’ ability to project “overwhelming force” after North Korea’s second successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Earlier that month, it sent two B-1B bombers from Guam to buzz the Korean Peninsula and train with the South Korean and Japanese air forces following the North’s first ICBM test.

The North Korean plan to strike Guam emerged as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened the isolated nation “with fire and fury like the world has never seen” after reports suggested it has cleared one of the final hurdles to being able to strike the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the North has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, according to a confidential U.S. intelligence assessment.

Citing the Defense Intelligence Agency report, the Post also said Pyongyang could have up to 60 nuclear weapons.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said in its annual white paper released Tuesday that Pyongyang has made “significant headway” in its nuclear arms development, citing its “possible” ability to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon refused to comment on the latest reports, but reiterated that the U.S. was committed to defending South Korea and Japan and sought “only the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile in less than a month late last month, with experts concluding that the launch flew higher and longer than the first and now puts a large chunk of the United States — including Chicago and Los Angeles — within range of Pyongyang’s ever-improving weapons systems.

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