By Christine Kim and Martin Petty
SEOUL/GUAM (Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday it was completing plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam in an unusually detailed threat that further heightened tensions with the United States.
North Korea’s army will complete the plans in mid-August, when they will be ready for leader Kim Jong Un’s order, state-run KCNA news agency reported, citing General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army. The plans called for the missiles to land in the sea only 30-40 km (18-25 miles) from Guam.
The reclusive communist country, technically still at war with the United States and South Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty, is known for making bellicose threats.
Experts in South Korea said North Korea’s plans ratcheted up risks significantly, since Washington was likely to view any missile aimed at its territory as a provocation, even if launched as a test. North Korea has carried out a series of missile and nuclear bomb tests in defiance of the international community.
North Korea announced the plans following U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments on Tuesday that any threats by Pyongyang would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” remarks that KCNA called “a load of nonsense.”
North Korea’s apparently rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled tensions that erupted into a war of words between Washington and Pyongyang this week, unnerving regional powers and global investors.
World stocks fell for a third day, with shares in Seoul slumping to a seven-week low.
The rising tensions between North Korea and the United States — the biggest foreign policy crisis Trump has faced in his six-month-old presidency — contributed to a weak open for U.S. stocks.
The benchmark S&P 500 stock index <.SPX> dropped 0.75 percent in the first hour of trade. The index has had just two days so far this year where it has closed with losses of more than 1 percent.
As announced by North Korea, which added detail to a plan first unveiled on Wednesday, the planned path of the missiles would cross some of the world’s busiest sea and air traffic routes.
Guam, a tropical…