North Korea will be ready to fire at Guam by 'mid-August'
(ShareCast News) - North Korea has said it is working on a plan to fire missiles in to the sea off the coast of Guam.
The plan would see four Hwason-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles fired into the waters 18 to 25 miles off the coast of the Pacific island in response to the US President's "fire and fury" comments on Tuesday evening.
While the estimated splash-down of the missiles would fall just outside of the US territory's 12 nautical mile territorial waters, it would be well within the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone granted to the territory as part of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is commonly referred to as the 'Constitution of the Sea.'
Of the increased rhetoric displayed by Donald Trump, General Kim Rak Gyom, head of Korea's strategic forces claimed in a statement that, "Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him," as he outlined the Korean People's Army (KPA) plans to launch the four missiles more than 2,000 miles over the Shimane, Koichi and Hiroshima prefectures of Japan towards Guam.
A 'LOAD OF NONSENSE'
Although the statement has been seen as a flexing of the nation's nuclear muscles, it was Pyongyang's most vocal and detailed threat to date, criticizing Trump for having "let out a load of nonsense about 'fire and fury' failing to grasp the ongoing grave situation," before going on to state, "This is extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA."
This sudden and extreme escalation in tensions came about after US intelligence analysts advised the White House that North Korea has likely produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead.
However, according to Roh Jae-Cheon, a spokesman for South Korea's joint chiefs of staff, there is no indication as to whether or not the Hwason-12 missiles allegedly destined for Guam would be tipped with nuclear warheads, saying "Currently, there is no unusual movement related to a direct provocation."
LIKELIHOOD OF FOLLOWING THROUGH
Set to present final launch plans to Kim Jong-un by "mid-August," the KPA report stated it would then "wait for his order".
But should the commander-in-chief sign-off on the 1,065 second missile flight, it would not be the first time that the nation had launched a rocket over Japanese territory.
The North Korean military has previously tested missiles designed to land in waters off the coast of Japan, without any military response from Tokyo and the 2012 Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite launch which flew over the Okinawa islands to the south of Japan were considered the most significant steps in the nation's missile program in recent years.
However, legal restrictions regarding these previous launches that prohibit shooting down test missiles would likely not apply this time around.
"The reason you can't shoot down a test is that it doesn't enter a defended area. But that wouldn't be the case with 'bracketing fire'," said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said that his government "can never tolerate North Korea's provocations," and implored the rogue state to comply with UN resolutions regarding its missile and nuclear programs.
With protocol and counter-attack measures in place across South Korea, Japan and at the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam itself, many analysts think it unlikely Kim Jong-un would follow through on such a detailed attack.
Oxford Economics pointed out in a Thursday research briefing that all parties involved stand to lose out from direct military confrontation, and despite the increase in threatening language that the posturing between the two nations had been going on for some time and that in time, cooler heads were likely to prevail.
However, it did go on to note that threats from the "hermit kingdom" had previously been seen as "somewhat comical and unsubstantiated," but this was no longer the case.
With multiple reports from US intelligence officials that North Korea had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of being fitted to its Hwasong-12 missiles, and with the recent successes of its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, the briefing cautioned that the DPRK, should "for all intents and purposes, be considered a nuclear power capable of striking the US mainland."
Then there is the uncertainty that Trump himself presents.
With an increasingly failing domestic agenda and the lowest approval rating in the history of modern polling at 38%, there is concern that the President, looking for a foreign policy win, brings the US to a cross road leaving the military option as the only option.
While the likelihood of military conflict remains very low, Kim Jong-un's actions deserve more attention than they may have in the past.
Markets have been shaky as a result of the increased rhetoric between the two nations. In South Korea, equities fell 1.1% on Wednesday as many investors pulled out of the region. On the other hand, safe-haven flows helped to boost the Japanese Yen to below $110.
US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson spent much of Wednesday assuring Americans they could "sleep well at night", while US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis chose to remind Pyongyang on Wednesday that the US and its military allies, "possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth".