North Korea Says It Might Fire Missiles Into Waters Near Guam

August 10, 2017

By CHOE SANG-HUN

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/world/asia/north-korea-missiles-guam.html?mtrref=undefined

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Thursday that it was drawing up plans to launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters near Guam in the Western Pacific to teach President Trump a lesson, after the president warned of “fire and fury” against the North if it persisted in threatening the United States.

If the North were to follow through on its threat to launch an “enveloping strike” in the vicinity of Guam, it would be the first time that a North Korean missile landed so close to an American territory. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that, according to the plan, four of the country’s Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles would fly over the three southern Japanese prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi before hitting the ocean about 19 to 25 miles from the coast of Guam.

In addition to serving as a warning to the United States, the proposed missile firings would also be a challenge to Japan. Some of the North Korean missiles launched in recent months have fallen in waters near Japan, but none of them have actually flown over the country. The North has said it launched its previous test missiles at highly lofted angles so that they would not fly over Japan.

North Korea will fine tune its launching plans by the middle of this month and wait for a final order from its leader, Kim Jong-un, the North’s official news agency said, citing Gen. Kim Rak-gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army.

General Kim’s remarks came after Mr. Trump warned that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before” if it continued to expand its nuclear and missile programs. The North test fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, last month, demonstrating an ability to fire a missile that eventually could hit the continental United States with a nuclear payload.

“Sound dialogue” is not possible with someone “bereft of reason, and only absolute force can work on him,” General Kim said, accusing Mr. Trump of having spoken “a load of nonsense.” He said Mr. Trump, who he said was spending his time on the “golf links,” was failing to “grasp the ongoing grave situation.”

North Korea first mentioned its plans to fire missiles into the waters off Guam on Wednesday, three days after the United Nations Security Council adopted another set of tough sanctions that American officials said could deprive the North of as much as one-third of its total export revenues. General Kim, who is in charge of North Korean missile units, released more details of the missile plan early on Thursday.

He said the four Hwasong-12 missiles would fly 2,086 miles in 17 minutes and 45 seconds to reach their target in the ocean near Guam, which would serve as an air base for American strategic bombers if war with North Korea were to break out. General Kim said he was disclosing the details of the plan to “give stronger confidence in certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness the wretched plight of the U.S. imperialists.”

In recent months, B-52 and B-1B bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam have flown over the Korean Peninsula on flights that the North has denounced as exercises for launching a nuclear strike. North Korea said its Hwasong-12 missiles were designed to interdict such an attack from the American base in Guam.

The military option the Trump administration has threatened against North Korea could involve shooting down North Korean missiles over international waters, said Cheon Seong-whun, a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul who served as a presidential secretary for security strategy until a few months ago. Any move more aggressive than that could lead to an armed clash with North Korea, analysts say.

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