As Rhetoric Escalates, What Do We Know About North Korea's Nuclear Arsenal?

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12 August, 2017

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday advised the public to keep watch for the possible effect of North Korea's plan to launch ballistic missiles at the United States' (US) Pacific territory of Guam. An attack or threat to Guam is a threat or attack on the United States.

The already high tensions on the Korean Peninsula spiked further this week as the North threatened to fire missiles into waters around Guam, a key strategic point for the USA military where some of its strategic weapons are deployed, including B-1B and B-52 strategic bombers and the THAAD missile defense system.

North Korea said it was finalising a plan to fire medium-to-long-range rockets towards Guam, where United States strategic bombers are based, along with more than 160,000 USA citizens.

"The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people", Mattis said in a statement, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. There is a US air base there, a Navy installation and a Coast Guard group. There is the possibility that any missile launched by North Korea could reach Guam.

Guam Governor Eddie Calvo said while he agreed with sending a clear message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he didn't "want the temperature to get any higher".

ANALYST TAKE: "We're seeing significant risk aversion in the markets on Wednesday, with the escalation in tensions between the USA and North Korea triggering moves into safe haven assets", said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

President Donald Trump issued an apocalyptic warning to North Korea on Tuesday, saying it faces "fire and fury" over its missile program, after USA media reported Pyongyang has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead.

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely". "I would expect the markets to react again pretty negatively to any more tough talk from either side, but for now, everybody seems to have settled down, and we'll see what happens". "There are many people that I have come in contact with that didn't even know Guam existed", he said. "That calls for reinvesting into our aging infrastructure, updating our level of hospitality and inviting new airlines to open up more flights to Guam". "I think it will take more missile tests and more nuclear tests to have any confidence in such a design". It also has a spotty record, although its most recent test, in May, was a success.

Despite its size, it plays an outsized role in US military strategy in the Pacific. The Hwasong-12 it has threatened to lob toward Guam has failed three out of four tests.

"They said and promised me they would take care of our people and of Guam", said Rep. Madeline Bordallo.

The unprecedented rhetoric coming from Washington and Pyongyang was prompted by news that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can be placed in an intercontinental missile. But residents are increasingly anxious over Washington's escalating war of words with North Korea.

But it also said that if the US and South Korea attacked North Korea to force regime change, then China must intervene to prevent it. "As a result, asking to do that for the first time, if it does, great", he said.

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