The North Korean Threat
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|Susan St. Claire||March 29th 2013|
North Korea's leader has responded to America's use of nuclear-capable B-2 bombers in joint South Korean military drills with more angry rhetoric, saying his rocket forces are ready to attack US positions.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) news agency said on Friday that Kim signed off on the orders at a midnight meeting of top generals and "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation". In the event of any "reckless" US provocation, North Korean forces should "mercilessly strike the US mainland ... military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea", he was quoted as saying. Yonhap news agency said on Friday that increased activities involving vehicles and troops at North Korea's mid- and long-range missile units were detected by South Korea's military. Kim said "the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation", according to KCNA."Sharply increased movements of vehicles and soldiers have been detected recently at North Korea's mid and long-range missile sites," South Korea's Yonhap news quoted a military source as saying. "There is a combat duty readiness in effect at the North's missile units since February 26 so there is a possibility they will actually fire." The country is barred from launching ballistic missiles under United Nations sanctions. North Korea’s development of the KN-08 was one of the reasons the Pentagon cited last Friday when it announced a $1 billion plan to add more missile interceptors in Alaska to better protect the United States against a potential North Korean missile attack.
With tensions soaring on the Korean peninsula, two B-2s flew training bombing runs over South Korea on Thursday to underline US commitment to its military alliance with Seoul in the event of any aggression from the North. Kim argued that the stealth bomber flights went beyond a simple demonstration of force and amounted to a US "ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost". Present at the emergency meeting were the Korean People's Army (KPA) chief of general staff, director of operations and commander of strategic rocket operations. The US flight came as part of annual drills between the United States and South Korea, which North Korea each year denounces as rehearsals for war.
Pyongyang has been particularly vocal this time, angered by UN sanctions imposed after its long-range rocket launch in December and the third nuclear test it carried out last month.
The KPA had already put its strategic units at combat-ready status on Tuesday, and the following day it cut the last remaining military hotline with South Korea. The bulk of the threats emanating from Pyongyang have been dismissed as bluster, and North Korea has no proven missile capability to strike the US mainland, or indeed Guam or Hawaii. Washington has said that decision to send the B-2 bombers was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke a reaction from North. North Korea's belligerent tones and actions in recent weeks have increased the danger in the region, "and we have to understand that reality", Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, said.
"We will be prepared, we have to be prepared, to deal with any eventuality," Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. "We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we'll respond to that." Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry spokesman has called for an easing of tensions in the region.