How three recent launches signaled new leaps in North Korea's missile capabilities

Gladys Abbott
August 12, 2017

North Korea's army said in a statement distributed by state media Wednesday that it was examining a plan to use ballistic missiles to make an "enveloping fire" around Guam, a US territory that is home to Andersen Air Force Base.

During that war, Japan occupied Guam until USA forces helped liberate it. Guam is called the "tip of the spear" for that reason. Guam officially became a USA territory in 1950 and was put under the administration of the Department of the Navy.

According to the Pacific Air Forces website, the bombers are joining their counterparts from South Korea and Japan in sequenced bilateral missions.

While it is around 1,500 miles further out from the Korean peninsula than its next closest base in Japan, it's "still strategic because of its location" and its ability to host long-range bombers.

Should US allies refuse to let the military to launch strikes from their territory, Guam would be the most likely place from which to launch airstrikes on North Korea, Schuster says, adding that this is how Kim will regard it.

There are, however, political complications in launching attacks from United States bases hosted by allies closer to Pyongyang, should the U.S. retaliate to Kim's latest threats. The news was first reported by North Korean state-run news agency KCNA.

Guam is the closest USA territory to North Korea at a distance of approximately 2,130 miles. Protecting the island is the U.S. Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles.

"The shorter-range missile that can reach South Korea and Japan can accommodate larger nuclear warhead payloads", he said.

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The US Department of Defense reiterated its capability to counter North Korean aggression.

In a recent message, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said, "Since North Korea is very close to crossing the red line, Seoul needs to ramp up all defence measures against North Korea's potential threat", said another Seoul city official who asked not to be identified by name. Japan has also chose to put its military on the highest alert level following the North's threats.

Naval Base Guam is an important outpost for US fast-attack nuclear powered submarines that are a key means for gathering intelligence in the region, including off the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea where China has been building military bases on man-made islands that have stirred tension across Asia.

The exercise around Japan's southern Kyushu island involved two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and two Japanese F-2 jet fighters, Japan's Air Self Defence Force (ASDF) said in a news release. "South Korea military exercises".

Pyongyang did not develop its nuclear capability to be the aggressor in a war with the USA, says CNN Military Analyst Rick Francona. "They developed these weapons to prevent an attack from the US".

Carl Schuster, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN a single ship equipped with Aegis could probably take out two missiles.

"In 1994, when the US government reviewed a plan to bomb North Korea's nuclear site at Yongbyon, the situation was much more serious than now". Or at least that's the rhetoric coming from Pyongyang. Altogether, 7,000 USA military personnel are stationed on Guam.

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