North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s brinkmanship has escalated into a war of words in which U.S. President Donald Trump promised to react against threats from North with “fire and fury” on Aug. 8, which prompted threat from the North Korean army to fire four missiles near Guam in a detailed plan of attack at the U.S. territory.
U.S. President Trump issued a warning against North Korea, saying that the regime would be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Trump’s comments followed reports from U.S. intelligence agencies that North Korea has been assessed to have achieved a milestone of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to put it onto a ballistic missile.
The comments promoted North Korea to issue a statement threatening to fire ballistic missiles near Guam, the home of Anderson Air Force Base, with the deployment of an advanced U.S. military arsenal, including the B-1B bombers. The North Korean statement, issued by Kim Rak-gyeom, commander of the North’s Strategic Forces, claimed that the military was considering a plan to launch four Hwaseong 12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward Guam. A North Korea expert in Seoul, a former North Korean defector, said that North Korean threats were not real and they indicated fears of U.S. strikes.
Current and former U.S. military experts cited the possible use of the B-B1 bombers to make preemptive strikes against North Korea, which is engrossed in the development of nuclear arms. In fact, the U.S. B-1B bombers made 11 sorties flying to Japan and the Korean Peninsula and returning to Guam in recent military exercises involving U.S. and Korean military forces.
Meanwhile, Korean President Moon Jae-in called for stronger defense capabilities against North Korea’s nuclear and missile technologies at a ceremony to award letters of appointment to new military leaders. President Moon has been focusing on inter-Korean engagement policies to persuade North Korea to come to the table since taking office. South Koreans may know that North Korea’s launch of a full-fledged war could lead to the latter’s complete destruction resulting from retaliation by U.S.-South Korean military power, as is the case of “mutually assured destruction.”
President Trump reaffirmed his stern position against North Korea’s threats. He said his previous promise of “fire and fury” in response to threats from North Korea may have not gone far enough, pledging “trouble” for the North if its actions don’t change. Asked about potential preemptive strikes against North Korea, President Trump was quoted, “We don’t talk about that, I never do.”
“I’m not like the other administration that would say we’re going into Mosul in four months. I don’t talk about it,” he said.
The Trump administration has been throttling up the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile technologies. The United National Security Council passed on Aug. 6 new sanctions against North Korea against the testing of ballistic missiles. The resolution did not impose an embargo on the North’s crude oil imports from China due to China’s opposition. U.S. officials said the new round of sanctions would slash North Korea’s exports, including coal, iron, ore, lead, ore and seafood, by a third. The sanctions also affect other revenue streams, such as banks and joint ventures with foreign companies. Entering this year, North Korean leader Kim has declared his determination to push ahead with the North’s nuclear arms development.
The U.S. administration has pressured China, North Korea’s only ally, to give up its nuclear arms programs, but such efforts have so far ended in a failure. China does not want North Korea to have nuclear arms, but the former is reluctant to push the latter to the extent that the North could collapse.
Amid the rising tension surrounding the Korean Peninsula, the latest development had an adverse impact on South Korean financial markets. The main stock index Kospi dropped 1.1 percent to close at 2,368.39 on the day while the Kosdaq shed 1.5 percent. Foreign media reports said they were surprised to see Koreans, including citizens on Seoul streets, about 40 km from North Korea, stay calm amid the uncertainty. Many Koreans were traveling to Guan as usual despite North Korea’s threats against the U.S. territory.