North Korea threats: US to move missile defences to Guam


Should we be worried? The Korean crisis - in 90 seconds

The US is sending a missile shield to the Pacific island of Guam as North Korea threatens nuclear strikes.

The Pentagon said the shield would be ready within weeks, adding to warships that were sent to the area earlier.

The North had named Guam among a list of possible targets for attack that included Hawaii and the US mainland.

North Korea is not thought to have the technology to strike the US mainland with either a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile, analysts say.


Despite all the bluster, experts do not believe that North Korea has the capacity to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile at the US. However, American bases in South Korea, Japan and perhaps even as far away as Guam could well be within range of Pyongyang's conventionally armed missiles.

The US response has been a mixture of reassurance for its allies and prudent defensive precautions, including the deployment of warships with anti-missile capabilities.

Other anti-missile defences in the region are also being bolstered, a step that carries an additional message to Beijing - that if Pyongyang remains on this course anti-missile systems will only proliferate, something that may eventually compromise the effectiveness of China's own nuclear deterrent.

But it is capable of targeting US military bases in the region with its mid-range missiles.

Pyongyang has also continued to refuse access to workers from the South into a joint industrial zone in the North.

The Kaesong complex is staffed mainly by North Koreans but funded and managed by South Korean firms.

Pyongyang blocked access for a second day on Thursday, and threatened to shut down the zone.

North Korea has issued an array of statements in recent weeks threatening nuclear strikes and attacks on specific targets in the US and South Korea.

It has announced a formal declaration of war on the South, and pledged to reopen a mothballed nuclear reactor in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

In its latest statement, attributed to a military spokesman, the North appeared to refer to ongoing military exercises between the US and South Korea in which the US has flown nuclear-capable bombers over the South.

US newspapers react

The New York Times says: "The Obama administration was prudent to bolster its forces in the region. Many experts assume Mr Kim won't attack the world's top military power or its allies, but Washington has an obligation to guarantee that if this assumption is wrong, it can defend the homeland."

From the Washington Post: "What the administration really needs, however, is a new strategy for answering the provocations. Diplomacy hasn't worked; neither has pressuring China to restrain the Kim regime. What has are financial sanctions targeted at the ruling elite."

The New Jersey Star-Ledger says: "While many buy into the old disarmament-for-food storyline, there's another camp concerned this episode might be different: that Kim, with little more than a year on the job, might actually believe his nation has become a nuclear power."

The statement said the "ever-escalating US hostile policy towards the DPRK [North Korea] and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed".

It promised to use "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK" and said the "merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified".

The US Department of Defense said on Wednesday it would deploy the ballistic Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad) to Guam in the coming weeks.

The Thaad system includes a truck-mounted launcher and interceptor missiles.

The Pentagon said the deployment would "strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat".

The US floated plans to send a Thaad system to Guam in 2009, but never followed through.

US officials recently also announced that the USS John McCain, a destroyer capable of intercepting missiles, had been positioned off the Korean peninsula.

Timeline: Korean tensions

  • 12 Dec: North launches a rocket, claiming to have put a satellite into orbit
  • 12 Feb: North conducts underground nuclear test
  • 11 Mar: US-South Korea annual military drills begin
  • 30 Mar: North says it is entering a "state of war" with South
  • 2 Apr: North says it is restarting Yongbyon reactor

Analysts have expressed concern that it is unclear exactly what Pyongyang hopes to achieve with its latest round of ramped-up rhetoric.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Seoul says the North could be seeking to pressure Washington to open fresh talks.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington was taking the threats seriously.

"As they have ratcheted up her bellicose, dangerous rhetoric, and some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger," said Mr Hagel, in his first major speech since taking up his post.

The North has not taken direct military action against its neighbours since 2010, when it shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.

North Korea missile ranges map

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  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    A big problem in all of this is that little Kim does not wield the same power as his father or grandfather. The strings are pulled by the ageing generals that realise that they do not have much longer on this earth and only now can they seize the chance to live their dreams and crush the us and western world. Technically they have nothing to lose, and they won't be too concerned of consequences

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    Jay Janson, thanx for informing us here"The US Government, under control of its speculative investment banking elite, uses the gigantic world-wide reach of its likewise controlled US media cartel to manufacture an upside-down reality regarding US business and government intentions in Korea" or, more precisely the HISTORY of Korean US domination that you documented, this all news! CHANGES Me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    @ 810

    I agree but the hardline NK military would turn the clock back not forward. People are more inclined to protect what they have than work for something better. There is evidence pirated DVDs are showing some NK'ers they aren’t in a socialist paradise but in a society where spouses inform on each other I don’t foresee a popular movement for change. Would love to be proved wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.


    NATO Weapons - sorry but Nato are not being provoked here the USA, Japan and South Korea are - totally different alliance which DOES NOT affect Europe

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    Really, some of this stuff about who started what is like two kids in a playground telling the teacher it wasn't their fault.

    Just read a true uptodate comment @820 & realise the very real human worries & stop the bickering over history which has little/no bearing on today.For people who are meant to be standing together, some of you are sure facing in odd directions and stand in the here & now

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.


    I've already answered this as somebody else asked the question. I was talking about warmongering that can still be remembered by the people alive today, BECAUSE they were alive at the time. You must surely see the difference between that and the British colonial times. I'm talking recently, your excuse does not convince me in the slightest. US probably take the prize.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    @828.Pete Powell
    "If I was a North Korean citizen, I'd be uprooting and moving out to where old men no longer think that war is an answer!"

    Except that you wouldn't be allowed to leave the country, not even to South Korea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    NK, US and Israel. The most scary nations on Earth, all with nukes. 2 fanatical religious and 1 fanatical ideologist. NK is an insular paranoid regime, much like the USSR in the 80s. The US should learn from the near nuclear war from then, about not antagonising such a nation with massive "war games" on the border. There are too many major population centres in Asia Pacific region at risk.

  • Comment number 841.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.


    The fact that it is:

    Doesn't trade with other countries
    Doesn't have good internet access
    Has a poor population that mostly work for the state

    These features actually make it MORE dangerous.

    If the world is globalised as one & you have NK standing on its own - it's not hard to work out why this makes it so dangerous if you have 1/2 a brain

  • Comment number 839.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    800. Luddite1811
    US involvement in WWII Europe was inconsequential,
    Did you go to school with David Cameron? Why do you think the allied commander in chief in Europe was Eisenhower. The US deployed 61 divisions in Europe plus two entire tactical air forces. By 1944 their forces outnumbered the Commonwealth troops combined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    Questions need to asked as to how North Korea have been allowed over 50 years to development such a large army, and nuclear weapons without anyone bothering them. Is it because they had nothing else to give in return like oil maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    "Russia seems to be much more powerful than the US, US power is just hollywood propaganda." Spielberg orchestrated Iraq shock and awe...uh huh. Russia has been out of the game for decades- or have I been watching too much Segal movies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    Please don't give 818 the pleasure. Someone who thinks its the Americans fault for moving nuclear defenses to their region having been told that someone has authorized a nuclear strike on you is obviously causing the problem.
    The UN!! imposed sanctions, based on nuclear arms testing. Not the US!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    @ 808. John Locke

    Sorry m8, Facts are nothing but water off a ducks back for most. You little conspiracy theorist you!

    This of course would have nothing to do with the fact countries Asia are looking to china to be the reserve currency rather than the dollar or is it Iran offering to sell oil for gold rather than the Petro-Dollar.

    Libya wanted to introduce the gold-backed dinar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    Despite my natural urge to criticise American foreign policy: North Korea is run by mentalist with nuclear weapons. As their ballistics capability increases war looks ineveitable. I find it frightening that China is using its media mouthpieces to lie about sending troops to the Korean border. This proves to me that China is now taking a more assertive role as a growing power and its frightening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    An article appeared in the Pyongyang newspaper a couple of years ago about Un's father before he died. The great leader played golf for the first time. He scored 12 holes in one on a full length golf course (witnessed by his security guards). North Korean's believe all this stuff.

    This is the most dangerous type of dictatorship and should be nuked if they attack the West.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    Following on from 784. Ian

    WWII military casualties:

    Allies largest: Soviet (10mil) and Chinese (3.5mil)
    Axis largest: Germany (5.5mil) and Japan (2mil)

    USA (0.42 mil)
    UK (0.38mil)

    Even considering arguments of poor training/equipment of Russian/Chinese soldiers, these figures certainly suggests that the majority of the fighting was not done by either the US or UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    Where's John Simpson at the moment?

    If someone has an inside line to the BBC travel scretariat if they could drop me a line and i'll head down the bookies.


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