North Korea has said it is considering carrying out possible missile strikes on the US Pacific territory of Guam.
North Korea’s official news agency said on Tuesday the plan involved firing medium-to-long-range rockets at Guam, where US strategic bombers are based at Andersen Air Force Base.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seeking to calm tensions, said there was no imminent threat from North Korea while flying into Guam and that Americans could “sleep well at night”. He also defended President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury”.
Mr Tillerson said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not understand diplomatic language, and a strong message was needed that he would understand.
“I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the US… will defend itself and its allies,” he said.
Guam, a 210 sq mile sovereign US territory in the western Pacific Ocean, is used by the US as a strategic military base. Almost a third of its land is controlled by the US military and about 6,000 American troops are based there. It’s location, within range of North Korean medium- and long-range missiles, and of military importance to the US make it a logical target for Pyongyang.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump tweeted that the US nuclear arsenal was “more powerful than ever before”, but added he was hopeful “we will never have to use this power”.
The recent exchanges mark a sharp rise in rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, in recent years Washington has chosen to ignore North Korea’s increasing threats, but Russia has urged calm.
Russia’s top diplomat downplayed North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling following a diplomatic summit Tuesday, and said the United States has to take “prudent” steps to deescalate the crisis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized that North Korea has always complained about sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
“Strictly speaking, this is how representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have reacted to all previous U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he told reporters Tuesday after an east Asia diplomatic summit in the Philippines. “We will judge by their actions.”