WASHINGTON -- North Korea is "seriously examining a plan" to launch a missile strike targeting an area near the US territory of Guam in response to US President Donald Trump's warning to Pyongyang that any additional threats will be met with "fire and fury," according to a new statement from Gen. Kim Rak Gyom published by state-run media KCNA Thursday.
The North Korean Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is "seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the US," the statement said.
The sudden escalation in tensions in the Pacific came after US intelligence analysts assessed that North Korea has now produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead, according to multiple sources familiar with the analysis of North Korea's missile and nuclear program.
Last month Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles, known as Hwasong-14, which it says are capable of hitting the US mainland.
In response to the missile tests, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing new sanctions. The resolution, which targets North Korea's international revenue streams, was passed unanimously after strong lobbying from the United States. The US separately announced sanctions on North Korea, alongside Iran and Russia.
KCNA said that a KPA spokesman had "fully warned the US against its all-round sanctions."
According to the KCNA statement, North Korea will have a plan to send Hwasong-12 missiles toward Guam by "mid-August and report it to the commander-in-chief of the DPRK nuclear force and wait for his order." Kim Jong Un is understood to be the commander-in-chief of the nuclear force.
The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA would cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures of Japan, and would fly 3,356.7 kilometers for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 kilometers (18 to 24 miles) away from Guam, according to the statement.
There is no indication from the KCNA statement that the Hwasong-12 missiles pointed at Guam would be tipped with nuclear warheads.
US issues new warning
KCNA published a wire criticizing Trump for having "let out a load of nonsense about 'fire and fury,' failing to grasp the on-going grave situation. This is extremely getting on the nerves of the infuriated Hwasong artillerymen of the KPA [Korean People's Army]."
The article goes on to state that "sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him."
Threat to strike
The latest threat comes on the heels of a previous KCNA report that North Korea's military was "examining the operational plan" to strike areas around the US territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles.
Specifically, that statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base designed "to send a serious warning signal to the US."
The base is one of two on the Pacific island, which are the closest bases on US soil to North Korea, and represent the westernmost tip of the country's military might.
Dubbed the "tip of the spear," Guam is a key to the US military's forward deployed presence in the Pacific and is home to thousands of American service members and their families.
Its importance has declined since World War II, given the creation of military bases in Japan and South Korea, says Carl Schuster, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center. Now it is essentially a staging area, which sees rotations of bomber groups coming through.