North Korea has said it is considering carrying out missile strikes on the US island territory of Guam.
The announcement, made by the North Korean army this morning, comes just hours after Donald Trump said the country would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it made any more threats to the US.
According to the Associated Press, North Korea is studying a plan to create an “enveloping fire” around Guam with medium to long-range missiles. The island is home to Anderson Air Base, where strategic US bombers are based.
The news follows reports that North Korea has mastered crucial inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology needed to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post published extracts from a Defence Intelligence Agency report which suggested North Korea had successfully produced a miniaturised nuclear warhead that can fit inside missiles.
“The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” the assessment states.
The ICBMs could potentially reach 10,000km - the reported capability of missiles tested by North Korea in July and which landed in the Sea of Japan.
That distance would bring the warheads within reach of the US east coast, including New York and Washington DC.
However, officials is Guam insist that the Pacific island is safe, with governor Eddie Baza Calvo reassuring residents of the US territory that there is “no threat”.
But he added that discussions with the military are underway about military and first responder readiness to ensure that Guam is “prepared for any eventuality”.
Nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker - who has visited North Korea’s nuclear facilities a number of times - said he doubted whether the country is yet capable of attacking Guam.
Speaking last night, the Stanford University professor said that although the North tested two intercontinental missiles last month, developing a nuclear warhead for such a missile is “extremely challenging and still beyond North Korea’s reach”.
But Hecker said that the real threat is “stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula by misunderstanding or miscalculation”, adding: “Inflammatory rhetoric on both sides will make that more likely.”
The news marks a sharp rise in hostilities between North Korea and the US.
Speaking at his New Jersey golf course yesterday, Trump said that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had been “very threatening - beyond the normal statement”.
North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” the president said.
“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
However, Republican senator John McCain questioned whether Trump was ready to act against North Korea, saying “great leaders” don’t threaten enemies unless they’re ready to act.