North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has finished reviewing a plan to fire four missiles off Guam, and has opted to wait to see what the “foolish Yankees” do next.
The comments, published in state media Tuesday, came hours after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned that if North Korea fired on U.S. territory it would be “game on.”
Speaking at the Pentagon Monday, Mattis told reporters, “you don’t shoot at people in this world unless you want to bear the consequences.”
Speaking Tuesday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in appeared to down play Mattis’ comments, pointing out the U.S. would need its approval before launching any attack on North Korea.
“Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by South Korea and no one else can decide to take military action without the consent of South Korea,” said Moon in televised comments.
“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” he added.
The U.S. and North Korea have been engaged in increasingly threatening rhetoric since last Tuesday when U.S. bombers flew over the Korean peninsula, and U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury” following an assessment that North Korea had miniaturized a nuclear warhead.
North Korea says it needs the weapons to deter any U.S.-led attempts at regime change, while the United States sees a rogue state with nuclear weapons as a threat to global security.
Senior Trump administration officials have said that the U.S. is not interested in regime change, and has no desire to “inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people.”
President Trump is due to discuss the crisis with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in a phone call later Monday Washington time.
The next step?
Amid the heated rhetoric last week, North Korean state media said Kim had ordered senior generals to finalize a plan to fire four missiles less than 25 miles off Guam by mid-August.
Guam is home to two U.S. military bases and is known as the “tip of the spear” when it comes to U.S. forces in the Pacific Ocean. It’s of strategic importance to the U.S. and is the closest U.S. territory to the Korean peninsula.
The KCNA report Tuesday said Kim had “examined the (strike) plan for a long time and discussed it with the commanding officers in real earnest.”
The statement then appears put the onus to act on Trump, saying Kim would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees.”
The report is assumed to be referring to the U.S. joint military drills with South Korea, known as the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, which are scheduled to start August 21.
The annual military drills antagonize North Korea, as Pyongyang believes they are preparations for an invasion. Seoul and Washington say the exercises are defensive in nature.
“If the planned fire of power demonstration is carried out as the U.S. is going more reckless, it will be the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will ring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks,” the report said.
The U.S. and South Korea have confirmed the drills will go ahead as planned.
Life on Guam
For residents of Guam life on the island appears to be moving ahead as normal. The idyllic beaches and ocean-front hotels are still packed with tourists.
Officials have expressed confidence that the U.S. military and its multi-layered missile defense system that operates throughout Asia will protect them.
Mattis said Monday that Washington would be able to determine “within moments” after launch whether or not a North Korean missile was headed for U.S. territory, including Guam. He later added that the U.S. would “take it out” if the missile was determined to be headed for any U.S. territory.
But he also made clear that while the military was poised to protect Guam from the North Korean military threat, a declaration of war was a decision that remains with Trump and Congress.
“War is up to the president, perhaps up to the Congress, the bottom line is we will defend the country from an attack, for us that’s war, that’s a wartime situation,” he said.
“We will defend the country from any attack, at any time, from any quarter. Yes, that means for a lot of young troops they’re going to be in a wartime situation, welcome to reality. But it’s not declaring war, it’s not that I’m over here Dr. Strangelove doing things like that,” he added.