Infuriated by reports that the United States and South Korea would conduct joint naval drills on October 16, North Korea reiterated its threat to launch missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.
Kim Kwang Hak, a researcher at the Institute for American Studies of the North Korean Foreign Ministry was quoted by state media as issuing the following warning:
“We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense including a salvo of missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam. The U.S. military action hardens our determination that the U.S. should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the trigger for taking the toughest countermeasure.”
The U.S. has insisted that the joint naval exercise with South Korea is purely defensive in nature.
However Pyongyang views the naval drills as another in a series of provocations to the regime which have included incendiary threats from U.S. President Donald Trump and the recent deployment of a U.S. nuclear submarine in the Korean Peninsula.
Last August, North Korea issued its sternest warning to the United States by announcing plans to launch 4 missiles toward Guam.
The Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles would fly over Japan and land approximately 30 to 40kms off the tiny island. It is not confirmed if the Hwasong-12 missiles are tipped with nuclear warheads.
There were initial reports that the missiles would target Andersen Air Force Base where several U.S. strategic bombers are located. Guam is also home to thousands of U.S. military members and their families.
Russian lawmaker Anton Morozov who led a contingent to a visit of North Korea last October 8 confirmed the regime is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the capability to hit the U.S. West Coast.
As tensions have escalated between the U.S. and North Korea, the White House has moved to streamline its messaging to avoid sending out mixed signals. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has actively pursued diplomatic channels in an effort to diffuse the situation without resorting to military engagement.