Posted on 10/08/2017 by David Burgess
North Korea declared on Thursday it would have a plan ready by "mid-August" to launch four missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam, as it branded Donald Trump's threats as "nonsense".
With tensions between the US and Kim Jong-un's rogue state escalating, critics accused Mr Trump of inflaming the situation with "reckless" sabre-rattling.
Dismissing his threats as "a load of nonsense", the rogue state ridiculed the US president as a "guy bereft of reason" and said only "absolute force can work on him".
The statement from North Korean General Kim Rak Gyom said North Korea would produce a plan to fire four Hwasong-12 rockets more then 2,000 miles over Japan to "hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam".
The plan would be presented to leader Kim Jong-un who would make a decision on whether to proceed. The statement added: "We will keep closely watching the speech and behaviour of the US."
Mr Trump had earlier boasted that the US nuclear arsenal was "far stronger and more powerful than ever before" in his latest warning to North Korea.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Trump said: "My first order as President was to renovate and modernise our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.
"Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!"
A White House official added: "We are not just a superpower. We are now a hyperpower. The message is very clear - don't test this White House, Pyongyang. Don't test Donald J. Trump."
The US military also released pictures of two of its B-1B bombers flying over the Korean Peninsula on Monday.
James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, called on North Korea to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people".
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in telephoned Mr Trump asking for support in doubling the existing 500kg payload of ballistic missiles it would use in a military conflict with its neighbour.
The South military said on Thursday that Pyongyang's recent statements regarding Guam were a challenge against Seoul and the US-South Korea alliance.
Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said South Korea was prepared to act immediately against any North Korean provocation, although the military had not spotted any unusual action in the North indicating provocation.
The Japanese government said on Thursday it "can never tolerate" provocations from North Korea.
"North Korea's provocative actions, including this time, are obviously provocative to the region including Japan as well as to the security of the international community," Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief government spokesman, told reporters. "We can never tolerate this."
"We strongly urge North Korea to take seriously the strong warnings and censures that have repeatedly been made and abide by a series of UN resolutions and refrain from taking further provocative action."
The situation began escalating on Tuesday after it emerged North Korea has successfully miniaturised nuclear warheads to fit inside intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Mr Trump then said North Korea would face "fire and fury" if it further threatened the US. North Korea responded by saying it was "examining" plans to attack the US territory of Guam.
The Pacific island, 2,100 miles south of North Korea, with a population of 162,000, is home to 6,000 US service personnel and is known as America "permanent aircraft carrier".
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, on a scheduled trip to Guam, sought to play down concerns, saying there was "no imminent threat".
He said: "What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language. Americans should sleep well at night."
Eddie Baza Calvo, the governor of Guam, said: "I have reached out to the White House. An attack or threat to Guam is a threat or attack on the United States. They have said that America will be defended."
Jackie Hanson, a US citizen living in Guam, told The Telegraph the situation is "very unnerving". She said: "This is a small island."
Lee Jong-kwan, 53, an office worker, added: "Trump doesn’t need to constantly push North Korea like this."
At the United Nations, British ambassador Matthew Rycroft said it "stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States".
In Washington, Lindsey Graham, a prominent Republican senator, said Mr Trump had "basically drawn a red line".
Mr Graham said: "He's not going to contain the threat. He's going to stop the threat. The time for talking is running out."
It came as Robert Jeffress, the pastor who preached for Mr Trump on his inauguration day, said: "God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un.”
A 1999 interview also emerged in which Mr Trump suggested he favoured a pre-emptive strike if negotiation with North Korea failed.
Democrats attacked Mr Trump for "reckless" rhetoric and James Clapper, former US director of national intelligence, warned conflict on the Korean peninsula would be "apocalyptic".
The US has not moved additional assets into the region, an official said. He added: "The only time our (military) posture goes up is based on facts, not because of what Kim and Trump say to each other."
Meanwhile, in an apparently unconnected development, North Korea released Hyeon Soo Lim, a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence, on humanitarian grounds. He had been accused him of attempting to overthrow the regime.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the "tone" of Mr Trump's "fire and fury" remark was "discussed beforehand" with advisers including chief of staff John Kelly and nationals security experts. But she added: "The words were his own."