North Korea issued another stern warning to Washington Thursday, saying it was ready to respond with a "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike" as the US military deployed a missile defence system to Guam to guard against a possible attack.
North Korea on Thursday issued another stern warning to Washington, saying it was ready to respond with a "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike" as the US military sent a missile defence system to Guam to guard against a possible attack.
“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward [North Korea] and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people, and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means,” said the statement from North Korea’s military, released by state-run TV. “The US had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.”
The statement is thought to be a response to the use of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in ongoing US military exercises with South Korea.
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Earlier on Thursday, Washington moved to deploy ground-based THAAD missile interceptors on the island of Guam, a US territory that lies some 3,380 kilometres (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea and is home to 6,000 American military personnel. Two Aegis anti-missile destroyers have already been dispatched to the region.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang's threats and its evolving military capabilities now represented a "real and clear danger" to the United States, as well as regional allies South Korea and Japan.
"They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now," Hagel told the National Defense University in Washington. "We take those threats seriously; we have to take those threats seriously."
Most experts, however, think North Korea does not yet have the capacity to mount a nuclear device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.
Aggression then retreat?
Pyongyang has repeatedly threatened the United States with military action but has not backed up those threats. It threatened to launch a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike against the United States in early March.
Yun Duk-Min, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul, told AFP that this latest nuclear threat carried the additional weight of having received official approval, presumably by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, an “inexperienced” leader whose proclivities are not yet known.
"The problem is whether Kim, who is still young and inexperienced, knows how to handle this escalation," Yun said. "Where does it end? That's the worrying question."
Some analysts say this latest round of aggressive rhetoric could be diffused by North Korea provocatively firing a missile into the Sea of Japan, a show of force that could then allow it to retreat without losing face.
North Korea blocked South Korea's access to the Kaesong industrial zone—the last remnant of tangible North-South cooperation—for a second day on Thursday and threatened to pull its 53,000 workers from the plant.
North Korea test-launched a long-range rocket in December and then ratcheted up tensions again in February, when it conducted its third nuclear test.
Russia and North Korean regional ally China have called for restraint, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned this week that the situation had "gone too far".
"Nuclear threats are not a game. Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability," Ban told a news conference on a visit to Andorra.
Pyongyang this week announced it would restart the Yongbyon reactor, which was closed in July 2007 as part of international disarmament talks. Yongbyon is North Korea’s source of weapons-grade plutonium.
The US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University said Wednesday that a satellite photograph from March 27 appeared to show construction at the reactor was under way.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-04-04