Despite North Korea’s threat to attack the U.S. territory of Guam, it appears extremely unlikely that its leadership would risk its own destruction with a pre-emptive attack on the American territory. Still, analysts believe North Korea does have several missiles in its arsenal capable of reaching the Pacific island, which Pyongyang has regularly threatened because of its U.S. military bases.
Last month’s ICBM tests highlighted the growing threat. Both missiles were fired at highly lofted angles and landed in the sea near Japan, but analysts said the weapons could reach Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at a normal, flattened trajectory.
Both U.S. and Japanese officials believe North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads.
For North Korea, having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America would be the ultimate guarantee against U.S. invasion.
Not all technical hurdles have been overcome, however. North Korea is still believed to lack expertise to ensure a missile could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without the warhead burning up. And it’s still working on striking targets with accuracy.
With those caveats, here’s a look at some of the missiles possibly capable of reaching Guam:
The North Korean army’s statement Wednesday that it plans to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around Guam are based on the Hwasong-12, a new intermediate range missile the country successfully flight-tested for the first time in May.
The liquid-fuel missile is designed to be fired from road mobile launchers and has been previously described by North Korea as built for attacking Alaska and Hawaii. The North followed the May launch with two flight tests of its Hwasong-14 ICBM last month. Analysts said that a wide swath of the continental United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, could be within reach of those missiles, once perfected.
The flight data from the May launch suggested Hwasong-12’s range was between 4,000 and 7,000 kilometres. Guam is located about 3,400 kilometres from the Korean Peninsula.
Analysts say the liquid-fuel Musudan missile’s potential 3,500-kilometre range puts…