UPDATE 21:45 EST: Reuters / Yonhap report that the missiles being moved to the East Sea area are mid-range Musudans. Earlier reporting in the South Korean press suggested these missiles were tje KN-08.
A spokesman of the General Staff of North Korea’s military has declared that it has been given final approval for a nuclear strike, just hours after the United States announced a deployment of missile defense systems to a military base in Guam.
Early this morning KCNA carried a statement by the North Korean General Staff saying they would respond to the “ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy” with “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means.”.
The report also pointed out that the Korean People’s Army Supreme Command (led by Kim Jong Un) had solemnly declared that the General Staff should “take powerful practical military counteractions in succession”.
Although tensions have been rising daily from a rhetorical perspective, the latest development follows satellite reports earlier publicized today indicated North Korea was moving KN-08 missiles by train towards the East Sea / Sea of Japan.
Pentagon Press Secretary told reporters that “test flights” of certain missile systems could now be possible. While the range of the road-mobile KN-08 is suggested to be between 4,000 – 5,000km, it is uncertain whether the missile is in operational capacity with the North Korean military.
Earlier today the United States announced that it was moving Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems to the pacific island of Guam, which hosts a major U.S. military installation. The THAAD systems include truck-based launchers, interceptor missiles and radar.
Several moves made by the United States in the past few weeks, including the use of B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters during joint military exercises with South Korea, indicate that it is taking North Korea’s threats seriously.
Speaking to the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel remarked “It only takes being wrong once…And I don’t want to be the secretary of defense (who is) wrong once.”
The latest escalation follows North Korea’s surprise halt Wednesday of South Korean workers entering the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex. Hopes that the ban could have been short-lived were dashed today as Yonhap reported that South Korean customs officials have again been prevented entering the DPRK.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the U.S. thought “that the ban ought to be lifted”.
The latest statements from Pyongyang are the latest escalations in a long line of threats, ranging from preemptive nuclear strikes to missile attacks on U.S. military bases in the Pacific.
North Korea views on-going joint U.S.-South Korean drills as a dress rehearsal for the invasion of its territory. But in light of ratcheting tensions, South Korea’s recently inaugurated President Park Geun-hye has warned that any North Korean provocation will result in an “immediate counter strike”.