North Korean missiles 'on highest alert' to attack US bases on mainland America, Hawaii and Guam

Sabre-rattling continues as South Korea warns its neighbour to abandon  nuclear weapons

Tensions on the Korean peninsula escalated further today as North Korea announced it had placed its missile and artillery forces “on the highest alert”, while South Korea’s new President warned that the communist regime in Pyongyang could survive only if it abandoned nuclear weapons and ceased to provoke and threaten its neighbours.

This latest sabre-rattling came on the third anniversary of the deadliest recent incident between the two Koreas, the sinking in March 2010 of a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan – apparently by North Korean torpedo – in which 46 sailors died.

The South’s President Park Guen-hye, who took office only a month ago, used the occasion to urge the North to end its isolation. But the North Korean military responded with the alert, declaring it was ready to hit the bases of “US imperialist aggressor troops” on the US mainland and on Hawaii and Guam, as well as targets in South Korea and its vicinity.

The verbal exchanges are the latest in a series of incidents since the regime of Kim Jong-un carried out the country’s third nuclear test on 12 February – the most technologically impressive yet. That drew renewed United Nations sanctions against North Korea, followed by more threats from Pyongyang. Earlier this month the US announced that it was beefing up its defences in Alaska with 14 new interceptor units, to defend against a North Korean missile attack.

At the same time US and South Korean military exercises are currently taking place – the statement from the North Korean military singled out the use of B-52 bombers, capable of delivering nuclear weapons, as justification for its vow to take “practical military action” to protect the country’s national sovereignty.

Despite its northern neighbour’s increasingly violent language, the defence ministry in Seoul said it had detected no suspicious North Korean military activity, adding that its officials were “analysing” Pyongyang’s warning. A direct attack right now appears highly unlikely – though  that could change once the joint US-South Korean drills finish at the end of April.

As usual no one is sure exactly what lies behind the latest bellicosity in Pyongyang. One reason, almost certainly, is genuine anger at the UN sanctions, and the absence of promises from the US and its allies that North Korea will be rewarded if it ceases its provocations.

The threats may also be intended to prove the mettle of Kim – himself in office barely a year – and to boost his military credentials. The fear however is that, sooner or later, he will have to do something to show there is real menace behind the bluster.

Meanwhile, websites and organisations run by North Korean defectors to the South claim to have suffered cyber attacks, a week after computer systems at some South Korean banks and TV networks were widely disrupted. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Free North Korea Radio was also attacked.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific