North Korea said on Wednesday it is considering plans for a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after President Donald Trump told the North that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury”.
The sharp increase in tensions prompted warnings from US officials and analysts not to engage in rhetorical slanging matches with North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy the United States.
North Korea said it was “carefully examining” a plan to strike Guam, which is home to about 163,000 people and a US military base that includes a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
A Korean People’s Army spokesman said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency the plan would be put into practice at any moment, once leader Kim Jong Un made a decision.
Guam Governor Eddie Calvo dismissed the threat and said the island was prepared for “any eventuality” with strategically placed defences. He said he had been in touch with the White House and there was no change in the threat level.
“Guam is American soil … We are not just a military installation,” Calvo said in an online video message.
North Korea, which is ursuing missile and nuclear weapons programmes in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, also accused the United States of devising a “preventive war” and said in another statement that any plans to execute this would be met with an “all-out war, wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland”.
Washington has warned it is ready to use force if needed to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes but that it prefers global diplomatic action, including sanctions. The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday.
Trump issued his strongest warning yet for North Korea in comments to reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, before landing in Guam on a pre-arranged visit, said Trump was trying to send a strong message.
“So I think the president, what the president is doing, is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson told reporters.
Just moments after Tillerson’s remarks were reported, Trump hammered home his tough talk in a Twitter post about the US nuclear arsenal, in what looked like another warning to North Korea.