Hours after US president Donald Trump said he’d respond to more North Korean threats on the US with “fire and fury” unlike the world had ever seen, North Korea responded with a threat: saying it was considering a missile strike on Guam.
“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state,” Trump said of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, looking straight into the assembled cameras. “As I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Just more than two hours later, North Korea’s military released a statement mentioning that it would consider striking Guam, an island in the Pacific home to a massive Air Force base and US nuclear strategic assets, with Hwasong-12s, intermediate-range missiles first tested in May.
North Korea said at the time the missile could carry a heavy nuclear warhead, and independent analysis seems to fit with that statement. George Charfauros, the Homeland Security Adviser to Guam, sought to calm the island’s residents, saying its defences were ready, but Guam’s Gov. Eddie Calvo took a more sobering tone, telling people “I want to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality.”
Watch Gov. Calvo’s two-minute special address below:
North Korea specifically mentioned the US’s nuclear-capable bombers in Guam, saying they “get on the nerves of DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above Korea.” Usually in response to North Korean missile tests, the US will fly these bombers above the Korean peninsula.
CNN’s Jim Sciutto reported that the US flew two B1-B bombers over the Korean Peninsula out of Anderson AFB in Guam, part of “continuous bomber presence.”
But the US maintains a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence missile interceptor in Guam specifically made to protect from medium-range missiles. THAAD has performed well in test conditions but never intercepted a shot fired in hostility.
“We always maintain a high state of readiness and have the capabilities to counter any threat, to include those from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider.
After the UN Security Council, which includes the US, voted unanimously in favour of heavy sanctions on North Korea over the weekend, Pyongyang responded that it would teach the US a “severe lesson” that exacted a “thousand-fold” revenge on the US.
Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in on the issue on Wednesday afternoon, condemning the North’s actions and calling for China to use its leverage to bring the “rogue regime to its senses”.
“North Korean regime’s conduct is as illegal as it is reckless, as provocative as it is dangerous,” the prime minister said.
“It threatens the peace and stability of the region, of the world and they have to come to their senses.
“Every economic pressure that can be imposed, must be imposed and Australia is playing its part. While every nation should be united in bringing this rogue regime to its senses, we note especially the importance of China’s role. As North Korea’s major economic partner, China has unique leverage and we welcome in particular, China’s support for these strong and much more harsh sanctions imposed by the Security Council.”