SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s defense chief said Thursday that North Korea had moved to its east coast a missile with a “considerable” range, but that it was not capable of reaching the United States. The disclosure came as the Communist North’s military warned that it was ready to strike U.S. military forces with “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means.”
North Korea has been issuing a series of similar threats in recent weeks, citing as targets the U.S. military installations in the Pacific islands of Hawaii and Guam, as well as the U.S. mainland. In its latest threat Thursday, it did not name targets but said it was authorized to “take powerful practical military counteractions” against the threats from B-2 bombers from the United States, B-52 bombers from Guam and F-22 Stealth jet fighters from Japan that have recently run missions over the Korean Peninsula during joint military exercises with South Korea.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. “The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.”
Most analysts do not believe that North Korea has a missile powerful enough to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland or that it is reckless enough to strike the U.S. military in the Pacific. Still, with the North’s postures showing no signs of letting up, the United States announced Wednesday that it was speeding the deployment of an advanced missile-defense system to Guam in the next few weeks, two years ahead of schedule in what the Pentagon said was “a precautionary move” to protect U.S. naval and air forces from the threat of a North Korean missile attack.
Testifying before a parliamentary hearing, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin of South Korea said the missile North Korea has moved to the east coast, possibly “for demonstration or for training,” appeared not to be a KN-08, which analysts say is the closest thing North Korea has to an intercontinental ballistic missile.