By ERIC TALMADGE
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers. If carried out, it would be the North’s most provocative missile launch to date.
The announcement Thursday warned that the North is finalizing a plan to fire four of its Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters around the tiny island, which hosts 7,000 U.S. military personnel on two main bases and has a population of 160,000.
Japan and South Korea vowed a strong reaction if the North were to go through with the plan.
It said the plan, which involves the missiles hitting waters 30 to 40 kilometers (19 to 25 miles) from the island, could be sent to leader Kim Jong Un for approval within a week or so. It would be up to Kim whether the move is actually carried out.
It is unclear whether — or exactly why — North Korea would risk firing missiles so close to U.S. territory. Such a launch would almost compel the United States to attempt an intercept and possibly generate further escalation.
North Korea, no stranger to bluffing, frequently uses extremely bellicose rhetoric with warnings of military action to keep its adversaries on their heels. It generally couches its threats with language stating it will not attack the United States unless it has been attacked first or has determined an attack is imminent.
But the statement raised worries amid threats from both sides.
Following reports that U.S. intelligence suggests the North might be able to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile capable of reaching targets on the United States mainland, President Donald Trump warned North Korea that “it faces retaliation with fire and fury unlike any the world has seen before.”
Pyongyang, meanwhile, has been louder in its complaints against a new and tough round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, with strong U.S. backing, and Washington’s use of Guam as a staging ground for its stealth bombers, which could be used to attack North Korea and are a particularly sore point with the ruling regime in Pyongyang.
Its reported plan is extremely specific, suggesting it is actually plotting a launch.
The report said the Hwasong-12 rockets would fly over Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures in Japan and travel “1,065 seconds before hitting the waters 30 to 40 kilometers away from Guam.” It said the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force will…