North Korea today threatened strikes on US military bases in Japan and Guam, escalating tensions as suspicion deepened that Pyongyang was behind a cyber attack on South Korean broadcasters and banks.
The tone of the strike threat, attributed to a spokesman of the army’s supreme command, blended with the torrent of warlike rhetoric spewed out by Pyongyang in recent weeks, but stood out for its precise naming of targets.
Military tensions on the Korean peninsula are at their highest level for years, with Pyongyang irate at the use of nuclear-capable US B-52 bombers and nuclear submarines in ongoing joint military drills with South Korea.
“The US should not forget that the Andersen base on Guam where B-52s take off and naval bases on the Japan mainland and Okinawa where nuclear-powered submarines are launched, are all within the range of our precision target assets,” the army spokesman said.
North Korea has successfully tested medium-range missiles that can reach Japan, but has no proven long-range missile capability that would allow it to hit targets on the US mainland or Guam – more than 2,000 miles away.
Nevertheless, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last week that Washington had decided to bolster missile defences along the US west coast so as to “stay ahead of the threat” from the North Korean regime.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had issued a more general threat to destroy US bases “in the operational theatre of the Pacific” yesterday, as he directed a drone strike exercise.
Still photographs broadcast on state television seemed to show what looked like a rudimentary drone is being flown into a mountainside target and exploding.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported last year that the North was developing unmanned strike aircraft using old US target drones imported from the Middle East.
Kim has personally overseen a host of rocket and artillery drills in recent weeks, mostly at frontline bases near the disputed maritime border with South Korea which has been a flashpoint for military clashes in the past.
Since the UN Security Council tightened sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear test last month, Pyongyang has issued a range of apocalyptic threats including “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes.
It also announced it was scrapping the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, but its rhetoric has yet to be matched by any overt military action.