President Donald Trump issued North Korea with an apocalyptic warning on Tuesday, saying it faced “fire and fury” over its weapons programs, as Pyongyang said it was considering a missile strike near the US territory of Guam.
Trump’s comments marked a sharp intensification of Washington’s rhetoric over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes, which saw a seventh set of United Nations sanctions imposed on it at the weekend.
The remarks also appeared to echo Pyongyang’s own regular threats, most recently repeated on Monday, to turn Seoul into a “sea of flames”.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” said Trump, speaking from his golf club in New Jersey. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Trump’s tone was markedly different to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assurances last week that Washington was not seeking regime change in Pyongyang.
North Korea raised the stakes just hours later, saying it was considering missile strikes near US strategic military installations on the Pacific island of Guam.
Once finalised, the plan could be put into action at “any moment” once leader Kim Jong-Un made a decision, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted a military statement as saying.
The remote island of Guam ─ a 210-square-mile dot in the Pacific ─ is a key US military outpost and home to some 6,000 US troops spread across facilities including the sprawling Anderson Air Force Base, as well as Naval Base Guam.
Guam-based US B1-B bombers overflew the Korean peninsula on Tuesday, which KCNA said “proves that the US imperialists are nuclear war maniacs”.
Earlier, the Washington Post quoted a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis as saying officials think North Korea now has “nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery” ─ including in its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ─ making it a potent threat against neighbors and possibly the United States.
The Pentagon did not comment on the story, but the Post said two US officials familiar with the analysis had verified the assessment’s broad conclusions, and CNN said it had confirmed the report.