North Korea’s military presented leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday with plans to launch missiles into waters near Guam, an important US military base, despite North and South Korea and the US all expressing a willingness to avoid conflict.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have been high recently, with US President Donald Trump and Kim exchanging combative threats, as fears grow that North Korea is close to achieving its goal of being able to send a nuclear missile to the United States.
Next week the US and South Korea will begin their annual joint military exercises which will likely further provoke North Korea.
During an inspection of the North Korean army’s Strategic Forces, which handles the missile programme, Kim praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful plan” and said he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees [Americans]” a little more before deciding whether to order the missile test, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
Kim appeared in photos sitting at a table with a large map marked by a straight line, which seemed to show the flight route of the missile between northeastern North Korea and Guam, passing over Japan.
Kim said North Korea would go ahead with the missile launch if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity,” and that the United States should “think reasonably and judge properly” to avoid shaming itself, the news agency said.
Sending missiles to Guam, a major US military base in the Pacific, would be seen by the US as a serious provocation, and could result in conflict.
Here's why Spanish director Alvaro Longoria's The Propaganda Game about North Korea took over a year to plan
US Defence Secretary James Mattis said the United States would take out any such missile seen to be heading for American soil, and that such an attack by North Korea could mean war.
Kim’s warnings, however, suggest that the situation could be made less volatile if the US made some sort of conciliatory gesture.
That could refer to the US-South Korean military drills set to begin Monday, which the North claims are rehearsals for invasion. It also could refer to the B-1B bombers that the US has occasionally flown over the Korean Peninsula as a show of force.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, a liberal who prefers to use diplomacy when dealing with the North, urged North Korea to stop provocations and to agree to discuss its nuclear weapons programme.
At Rio 2016, South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju and North Korea's Hong Un-jong posed for a selfie together
Moon said in a televised speech yesterday South Korea and the US agree that the crisis over the North’s nuclear programme should “absolutely be solved peacefully”, and that the US military could not take action without the South’s consent.
Moon said if the North stopped its nuclear and missile tests, then the two counties could talk.
“Our government will put everything on the line to prevent another war on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, met with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media on Monday. He said the US wants to resolve tensions peacefully but is prepared to use the “full range” of its military capabilities in case of provocation.
Dunford is visiting South Korea, Japan and China after a week in which Trump declared the US military “locked and loaded” and said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States.
North Korea’s military had said last week it would finalise and send to Kim for approval the plan to fire four ballistic missiles near Guam, which is about 3,200 km from Pyongyang.
The plans are based on the Hwasong-12, a liquid-fuel missile the country successfully tested in May.
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge