North Korea has outlined a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers.
The attack will reportedly include four Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM) fired over Japan and landing within a few dozen kilometers of the US territory which hosts 7,000 U.S. military personnel on two main bases and has a population of 160,000.
Continuing the heated exchange with US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media outlet KCNA said that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, will be presented with an elaborate plan of the attack by mid-August, Reuters reported.
The plan envisions launching four Hwasong-12 rockets that would “cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan,” the report says, citing General Kim Rak Gyom. The missiles are set to “fly 3,356.7km (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds” before practically reaching the shores of Guam, landing in the waters just “30-40km away.”
Pyongyang also ridiculed Trump’s promise to counter any incoming threats from the North with “fire and fury,” labelling the remark a “load of nonsense” and in its turn vowing to act with “absolute force.”
South Korea’s military responded by saying North Korea will face a “stern and strong” response from Washington and Seoul. Taking it a step further, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told parliament a missile attack on the U.S. territory would be a Japanese national emergency because it would threaten Japan’s existence as a nation.
The Hwasong-12, which was revealed for the first time at a military parade in April, is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that is believed to have a radius of more than 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles). It can be fired from mobile launchers, making it hard to detect and destroy on the ground.
By launching a salvo of four, the North would be attempting to make it harder for the U.S. to intercept all of the incoming missiles. Its stated flight path over Japan is also very aggressive — it has recently tried to avoid flying over neighboring countries by shooting its missiles up at a very high angle to land in the ocean.
Washington has been testing its missile defenses in response to the North’s stepped-up development and the current escalation of tensions could lead to pressure for the U.S. military to try to shoot down the North’s missiles in mid-flight if they are heading toward Guam.
That would likely open up a set of very major problems, including the possibility of both a very high-profile failure or a miscalculation of Washington’s intentions and a more deadly pre-emptive strike by the North — which has missiles able to hit Tokyo and conventional weapons that could devastate South Korea’s capital of Seoul.