North Korea readies rockets for strike on US and South Korea

Kim Jong-un says rocket forces are ready “to settle accounts with the US”, in retaliation for more joint military drills.

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il-sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, supporting Kim Jong-un’s call to arms. (Jon Chol Jin/AP)

NORTH KOREAN leader Kim Jong-un has warned that his rocket forces were ready “to settle accounts with the US”, unleashing a new round of bellicose rhetoric after nuclear-capable American B-2 bombers dropped dummy munitions in joint military drills with South Korea.

Kim’s warning, and the litany of threats that have preceded it, are a likely attempt at coercing South Korea into softening its policies, win direct talks and aid from Washington, and strengthen the young leader’s credentials and image at home.

But the threats from North Korea and rising animosity from the rivals that have followed UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear test do raise worries of a misjudgment leading to a clash.

Official state media said Kim had “convened an urgent operation meeting” of senior generals just after midnight, signed a rocket preparation plan and ordered his forces on standby to strike the US mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.

Kim said “the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation,” according to a report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Later, at the main square in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of North Koreans turned out for a 90-minute mass rally in support of Kim’s call to arms. Men and women, many of them in olive drab uniforms, stood in arrow-straight lines, fists raised as they chanted, “Death to the U.S. imperialists.”

Placards in the plaza bore harsh words for South Korea as well, including, “Let’s rip the puppet traitors to death!”

(YouTube: apvideonews)

Yesterday, small North Korean warships, including patrol boats, conducted maritime drills off both coasts of North Korea near the border with South Korea.

A South Korean defence spokesman said Seoul’s military was mindful of the possibility that North Korean drills could lead to an actual provocation. He also said that the South Korean and US militaries are watching closely for any signs of missile launch preparations in North Korea.

North Korea, which says it considers the US-South Korean military drills to be preparations for invasion, has pumped out a string of threats in state media. In the most dramatic case, Pyongyang made the highly improbable vow to nuke the United States.

Today, state media released a photo of Kim and his senior generals huddled in front of a map showing routes for envisioned strikes against cities on both American coasts.

Experts believe the country is years away from developing nuclear-tipped missiles that could strike the United States. Many say they have also seen no evidence that Pyongyang has long-range missiles that can hit the US mainland.

However, there are still fears of a localised conflict, such as a naval skirmish in disputed Yellow Sea waters. Such naval clashes have happened three times since 1999.

There is also the danger that such a clash could escalate. Seoul has vowed to hit back hard the next time it is attacked.

Read: ‘Combat-ready’ North Korea threatens Hawaii, US mainland

Associated Foreign Press
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