DPRK threatens US with nuke attack

Updated: 2013-04-04 11:28

By Zhang Yuwei in New York and Joseph Boris in Washington (China Daily)

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Pentagon to deploy anti-missile system in Guam after threat

The United States said it would deploy a missile-defense system to its Pacific island territory of Guam, home to American naval and air bases, after the DPRK warned that its military had been cleared to wage a nuclear attack on the US.

Thursday's warning from the DPRK is the latest in a series of warnings from the country, which over a period of weeks has criticized the US' joint military drills taking place around the Republic of Korea.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, the DPRK's state news agency, the DPRK is reiterating its threat of a nuclear strike due to the US' heightened military activity around the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has previously threatened the US with missile attacks on its Pacific military bases including those on Guam.

The recent threats are also in retaliation for tightened sanctions passed by the United Nations Security Council with support from China, a permanent member. The new and tougher sanctions were approved after the DPRK carried out its third nuclear test in February.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel described Pyongyang's bellicosity in recent weeks as a "real and clear danger".

"We are doing everything we can, working with the Chinese (and) others to defuse that situation on the (Korean) Peninsula," Hagel said in a speech to the National Defense University in Washington on Wednesday.

He called the US response so far "measured, responsible, serious".

Earlier Wednesday, the DPRK closed access to a joint factory zone with the ROK, risking $2 billion a year in trade.

On Tuesday evening, Hagel called Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan vowing to advance military ties between the two superpowers.

Chang said both nations agree that developing military ties is in their best interests.

He added that China is willing to work with Washington to address military-to-military relations within a cooperative framework.

"The secretary emphasized the growing threat to the US and our allies posed by (the DPRK's) aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and expressed to General Chang the importance of sustained US-China dialogue and cooperation on these issues", Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

Hagel's call came after DPRK decided Tuesday to reopen a shuttered nuclear reactor able to produce bomb-grade plutonium.

In February, Hagel said the Pentagon would add 14 new anti-missile interceptors in Alaska and proceed with the deployment of a second missile-defense radar system in Japan.

A US Defense Department statement said the decision to deploy the missile-defense system, known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), to Guam in coming weeks was "a precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat".

The land-based system - comprising a launcher, interceptor missiles and tracking radar - would enable two US missile-defense ships to be redeployed closer to the DPRK coast, theoretically adding to US options for possibly shooting down a missile launched by Pyongyang.

Experts have said that, despite its long-standing weapons programs, the DPRK is years away, at the earliest, from having the ability to strike the continental US with a nuclear weapon. Earlier this week, the Obama administration said in a statement that Pyongyang hasn't taken any military action and had shown no sign of preparing its army for war.

"The moment of explosion is approaching fast. No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow," KCNA said in a statement from the general staff of the DPRK army.

The statement said the army was formally informing US authorities that it faced possible attack from "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear-strike means". It was unclear how that message could have been transmitted because Pyongyang and Washington have no diplomatic relations.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington, described the DPRK's announcement to attack the US as "threatening rhetoric" and a "hollow threat".

"It's still in the early stages of building even a small arsenal of first-generation, relatively basic nuclear weapons. Furthermore, it has no long-range ballistic missiles or bombers with which to attack the US homeland," Carpenter said.

"Yes, a (DPRK) military offensive could cause considerable damage to (the ROK's) population centers-and perhaps some damage to US bases there and in Japan. But the (DPRK) does not have a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons-much less 'cutting-edge' nukes," he added.

It is possible that the Thursday threat could be intended to rouse public sentiment in the DPRK to bolster leader Kim Jong-un before the April 15 anniversary of the birthday of Kim Il-sung, who founded the DPRK and is the current leader's grandfather.

A spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, criticized Pyongyang's latest statement as "yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and undermine its goal of economic development".

Contact the writers at yuweizhang@chinadailyusa.com and josephboris@chinadailyusa.com

(China Daily 04/04/2013 page1)