The probability of a nuclear exchange between North Korea and other nations, including the U.S., inched upwards this week as Pyongyang put out a statement that “The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” and that U.S. aggression would be “smashed by... cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means.”
The remarks raising tensions on the Korean peninsula came shortly after the Pentagon announced that it would mobilise the ground-based THAAD missile-interceptor batteries to protect its military bases on Guam, a U.S. territory located 3,380 km southeast of North Korea and “home to 6,000 American military personnel, submarines and bombers.”
On Wednesday, North Korea added that a war could break out “today or tomorrow.” The THAAD system includes a truck-mounted launcher and interceptor missiles, reports pointed out, and the Pentagon argued that its deployment would “strengthen our regional defence posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.”
South Korea confirmed that Pyongyang had moved a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, but it was “not capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.”
The North Korean military, however, cautioned that it had received “final approval for military action” against the U.S., particularly responding to what it called the “provocative U.S. use of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in the ongoing war games with South Korea.”
Even as U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel declared that North Korea posed “a real and clear danger” to South Korea, Japan and America, reports quoting unnamed South Korean and U.S. intelligence sources suggested that the allegedly untested North Korean Musudan missile had a theoretical range of 3,000 km, putting “all of South Korea and Japan within its reach.”
This March 18, 2009, handout from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency shows the launch of the THAAD missile during a test.