Kim Jong-un has been briefed by his military on a plan to launch missiles towards the US territory of Guam, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News, citing North Korean media reports.
North Korea celebrates “Liberation Day” on Tuesday, the anniversary of the withdrawal of Japanese occupying forces from the Korean Peninsula in 1946. North Korea frequently tests missiles or holds provocative events on holidays.
In the past days, US satellites have reportedly spotted missile movements and some submarine activity in North Korea. Both of these could possibly indicate an upcoming launch.
The North Korean military stated its intention to present a plan on firing missiles at the waters near Guam to Kim in mid-August, but it’s unclear if and when North Korea will complete that plan and if and when Kim will decide to go through with it.
Experts on North Korea told Business Insider they found it unlikely that North Korea would carry out the attack.
President Trump personally called out the August 15 date on Friday, threatening “big, big trouble in North Korea,” if an attack plays out. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis echoed that sentiment, saying a North Korean launch at Guam “could escalate into war very quickly,” but neither specified if launching missiles near Guam would constitute an attack on the island.
Mattis added that if the US perceived the attack to be on the US, it would shoot the missiles down. The US and Japan have a handful of advanced missile defence capabilities in the region, but none of them are proven against real world targets.
Furthermore, it would be difficult for the US to distinguish an attack from a missile test near Guam. It would also be difficult for North Korea to accurately place its missiles short of Guam, as the Hwasong-12, the missile it proposed using, has only been successfully tested once.
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