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N North Korea's missile a message to US: We can strike Guam at any time
Navy vessels are moored in port at the U.S. Naval Base, Guam CREDIT: REUTERS
By Julian Ryall
15 SEPTEMBER 2017 • 6:03AM
North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile that flew more than 2,300 miles before falling into the Pacific Ocean is a "clear and unequivocal" message to the United States that Pyongyang has the ability to strike Guam.
The distance from Pyongyang to Guam is a little over 2,100 miles and North Korea identified it as a target in early August , threatening to launch four
Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters close to the island.
The intention, according to analysts, was to demonstrate that Pyongyang would have no compunction in the event of war from targeting the resort island in order to interrupt air attacks on the North as well as efforts to reinforce ground forces on the Korean Peninsula.
"From previous launches and the altitude and ranges of those missiles, it has been assumed that Guam is within range of the North's missiles, but this latest test is proof", Garren Mulloy, a defence expert and associate professor of international relations at Japan's Daito Bunka University, told The Telegraph.
As well as being a resort island, Guam is home to a major US naval facility and Andersen Air Force Base, Washington's most important forward operating base in the Asia-Pacific region.
One senior American military official described the missile as a test shot that was also meant as a warning that the US base was within easy reach of the North’s intermediate-range missiles, the New York Times reported.
Nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer bombers from Andersen have in recent months carried out a number of operations - intended as warnings to Pyongyang - over South Korea.
North Korea has chosen to ignore those warnings and is now replying in kind, Mr Mulloy said.
"Even more significantly, we now know that Guam is within range of missiles from their mobile launchers, which is important because they are difficult to track, more difficult to knock out and more easily camouflaged", he said.
"We have seen in recent months that they have improved the reliability of their missiles, this new test shows that they have overcome problems associated with range, so the only issue left for these intermediate-range weapons is accuracy", he said.
"If the North now goes ahead and designates a 20-square-kilometre [7.7 square miles] patch of ocean as a target and is able to get a missile into that area, then I would say that is a cause for massive new concern because it would demonstrate that they have mastered the problem of accuracy".
Guam covers around 210 square miles, with a large part of the northern tip of the island occupied by the Andersen air base.
"On one level, it is very easy to understand what North Korea wants ", said Mr Mulloy. "They want to be treated like a 'great power' by the US and to be able to negotiate on the same level while squeezing out some concessions - although it is not clear what those concessions are as no-one is talking to them directly.
"But it would take a brave US leader to swallow his pride and agree to talks", he said. "And I don't think we have a brave leader in the White House at the moment".
 

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