July 18, 2018, 11:29 pm
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North Korea scoffs at Trump, details Guam missile plan

SEOUL/GUAM. – North Korea dismissed warnings by US President Donald Trump that it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States and outlined detailed plans on Thursday for a missile strike near the US Pacific territory of Guam.

South Korea urged North Korea to stop all action that drives up tension on the Korean peninsula, but China, Pyongyang’s major ally, has been keeping a low profile since the latest crisis erupted.

Experts in South Korea said the plans unveiled by the reclusive North ratcheted up risks significantly, since Washington was likely to view any missile aimed at its territory as a provocation, even if launched as a test.

North Korea plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam. Its apparently rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the US mainland has fuelled tensions that erupted into a war of words between Washington and Pyongyang this week, unnerving regional powers and global investors.

Guam, a tropical island more than 3,000 km to the southeast of North Korea, is home to about 163,000 people and a US Navy installation that includes a submarine squadron, a Coast Guard group, and an air base.

As announced by North Korea, the planned path of the missiles would cross some of the world’s busiest sea and air traffic routes.

The North Korean army would complete its plans in mid-August, ready for leader Kim Jong Un’s order, state-run KCNA news agency reported, citing General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army.

“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA (Korean People’s Army) will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan,” the report said. “They will fly 3,356.7 km (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam.”

While North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the US and its allies, the report was unusual in its detail. It follows two successful tests of an intercontinental missile by the isolated state in July and a series of other missile tests.

Masao Okonogi, professor emeritus at Japan’s Keio University, said before the latest KCNA report that Pyongyang may be issuing a warning or advance notice of changes to its missile testing program rather than threatening an attack.

“I believe this is a message saying they plan to move missile tests from the Sea of Japan to areas around Guam,” he said. “By making this advance notice, they are also sending a tacit message that what they are going to do is not an actual attack.”

Major airlines that fly over the region however said they had so far made no plans to change flight paths.

Visitors and residents on Guam appeared to be taking things in stride. The main beach front on the island was packed with tourists dozing under trees or on the sun loungers of five-star hotels lined up before a calm sea.

Governor Eddie Calvo said Guam had experienced a Japanese invasion in World War Two and countless earthquakes and super-typhoons, and there was no US community better prepared to meet the North Korean threat. -- Reuters
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