Less than two months after touting “success” in testing a couple of ballistic missiles designed for long-range targets, the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last Thursday specifically threatened the island of Guam as a mark.
“If the U.S. is reckless, misjudging the trend of the times and the strategic position of the DPRK, all the U.S. Military bases in the operational theater in the Pacific including Guam will face ruin in the face of all-out and substantial attack to be mounted by the Army of the DPRK,” warned the foreign ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The North Korea regime was reacting to a show of force by the U.S. military positioning, for the first time, all three of its heavy bomber aircraft to Guam. While the deployment is not a long-term fixture, the presence of all three types of bombers in one location is an historic event, according to Air Force officials.
Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, ranking member of the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness, assured the public that the U.S. stands at the ready to respond to any aggression by enemy forces towards Guam or U.S. allies in the region.
She scoffed at North Korea’s latest threat.
“The continuous and noisy rhetoric from North Korea is nothing new as they always respond to routine deployments in this manner. This deployment is a reminder to other actors in our region that we will support our allies and respond to any provocative acts from North Korea. Their continued missile tests have concerned our allies and our airpower is an appropriate counter balance,” Bordallo said. “The historic deployment of aircraft to Andersen AFB is yet another reminder of Guam's strategic importance to our national security."
Meanwhile, Guam Homeland Security said as it had in threats past that it was working with federal partners in monitoring the development.
“The Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense (OHS/OCD), in coordination with the Mariana Regional Fusion Center (MRFC), are closely monitoring events surrounding North Korea including any public statements made by said country,” stated Jenna Gaminde, DHS spokeswoman.
The congresswoman added, "The U.S. is committed to ensuring stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and we routinely keep assets forward deployed to deter aggression and respond to any contingency that may arise. There has been a continuous bomber presence at Andersen AFB since 2004. The deployment of three long-range strike bombers on Guam is part of this mission and is an opportunity to ensure the readiness of our forces.”
Bordallo’s statements are in line with the U.S Air Force’s position.
Though the recent North Korean nuclear and missile tests, the Chinese expansionist presence in the South China Sea and the parading of Beijing’s DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, dubbed the “Guam Killer,” all suggest a heightened level of military activity in the region.
Last week, senior Air Force officials denied that the current deployment is in response to these elevated conditions stated Post news files. Air Force officials maintained that the intersecting deployment, is simply a unique opportunity for all three bombers employed by the United Sates and their squadrons to train together.
The DPRK however, feels differently and sees the presence of the bombers as a pre-emptive act of aggression.
“The introduction of the nuclear strategic bombers to Guam by the US ... proves that the US plan for a preemptive nuclear strike at the DPRK has entered a reckless phase of implementation," North Korea’s foreign ministry is quoted as stating in its state-run Korean Central News Agency.
In June, without specifying the island Kim, after testing two Musudan missiles, hailed success and improved progress. Kim, in June without verbalizing Guam, noted that his country’s missiles have the capability to reach American soil and interests in the Pacific.
"We have the sure capability to attack in an overall and practical way the Americans in the Pacific operation theater," stated Kim in June.
The missiles, during the tests in June were fired hours apart and reportedly under Kim’s “supervision.”
The U.S. immediately condemned the launch and initially downplayed Kim’s claim of success. However, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged one of the two missiles "flew for a long time."
Carter said there is a need to ramp up defense capabilities on Guam and the region.
The South Korean defense ministry also refused to describe the June either of launch as successful, but recognized in its initial assessment that some technical progress appeared to have been made after the second missile soared to an altitude of at least 620 miles before it went horizontal, eventually plunging into the sea some 250 miles off of Japan’s coast.
The Musudan missile has a range of up to 4,000 kilometers, theoretically putting any part of Japan or Guam within its range. North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test fire them until this year, according to South Korean media.