US, Japanese officials: NKorea has nuclear-capable missiles; Trump admin issues threats

UPDATE 2 — 8/11, 9:34 a.m. EDT: President Trump addressed the North Korea threat publicly in separate statements on Thursday and Friday, telling reporters his “fire and fury” rhetoric earlier in the week possibly “wasn’t tough enough.”

On Friday morning, Trump tweeted the following: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

Pyongyang announced Thursday a military plan to hit the coast of Guam with four intermediate-range ballistic missiles will be ready shortly, but did not threaten a nuclear detonation.

 

UPDATE — 8/9, 6:25 p.m. EDT: The Associated Press is reporting North Korea has responded to President Trump’s threat of a preemptive strike on Wednesday, calling it a “load of nonsense”. 

Pyongyang also doubled-down on it’s promise to strike the U.S. territory of Guam, saying a plan to strike the Western Pacific island will be fleshed out by the middle of August.

 

A confidential analysis completed by the government of Japan alleges North Korea has developed a nuclear warhead capable of being placed on ballistic missiles.

An annual Defense Ministry White Paper examining the extent of Pyongyang’s nuclear strength revealed Kim Jong-un’s arsenal had reached a technological point in which nuclear-tipped missiles were likely.

“North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and its nuclear program are becoming increasingly real and imminent problems for the Asia-Pacific region including Japan, as well as the rest of the world,” Tokyo’s analysis read.

“It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons into warheads and has acquired nuclear warheads.”

The public disclosure of Japan’s study of North Korea’s nuclear ability buttresses a similar intelligence assessment produced by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and obtained by the Washington Post Tuesday.

Although both analyses differ slightly, both intelligence assessments appear to be in agreement North Korea has up to as many as 60 nuclear warheads in its arsenal.

The emergence of the reports come at a time in which North Korea publicly divulged its intent to target the U.S. territorial possession of Guam.

Learning of the reports North Korea has passed a vital threshold in becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, President Trump responded Tuesday with language which predicted nuclear oblivion, saying Pyongyang will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues to threaten the U.S.

The White House later downplayed both Trump’s comments and the North Korean threat, with one anonymous administration official saying that the president’s words were “impromptu.”

“I think he just wanted to show North Korea he was tired of it,” the Politico source said.

State Secretary Rex Tillerson also attempted to quell fears, telling reporters Wednesday in Guam amidst an Asian tour that Americans should “sleep well at night.”

“I think what the president was just reaffirming is that the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack, and our allies, and we will do so,” he said.

Defense Secretary James Mattis took a more aggressive approach, issuing yet another warning to North Korea in a Wednesday statement.

“The DPRK [North Korea] must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” it read. “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

 

[The Guardian] [The Telegraph] [Politico] [Reuters] [CNN] [YouTube/PBS NewsHour] [Photo courtesy KCNA via BBC]

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