North Korea 'readies rockets to attack United States targets'

Kim Jong-un responded to use of the B-2 bombers by the United States by saying his rocket forces were ready 'to settle accounts with the US'

American and South Korean intelligence officials were watching for unusual troop or hardware movements in North Korea tonight hours after the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, publicly ordered that his rocket arsenals be readied to strike at targets including military bases in the Pacific and the United States mainland.

There is doubt whether North Korean missiles could reach the western seaboard of the US or even Hawaii, but no one is ready to ignore the sudden spike in belligerent rhetoric. Earlier this month US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that $1bn would be spent strengthening America’s ballistic missile interception system in Alaska. North Korea possesses Soviet-era Scud missiles that could reach Seoul, while its long-range weapons could bring American bases in Guam and Okinawa, Japan, into range.

“If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, [we] should mercilessly strike the US mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theatres in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea,” the North Korean news agency reported yesterday.  It cited Kim Jong-un decreeing that the “time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation”.

The North Korean President has been issuing increasingly fiery statements in recent days as the US and South Korea have conducted joint military drills on the peninsula, which  included America flying two of its B-2 stealth bombers from a base in Missouri to drop dummy bombs on an uninhabited South Korean archipelago. The UN tightened sanctions on North Korea following a three-stage missile launch last December and an underground nuclear device explosion in February, while America and countries including Japan and Australia have also recently imposed new economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

The rising tensions were evident on the streets of the North Korean capital yesterday, where thousands gathered, punching their fists in the air and chanting “death to the US imperialists”.

Earlier last week Pyongyang announced it was ending its compliance with the nearly 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War and severing a military communications hotline with the South. While statements about targeting US bases in the region and South Korea also trickled out last week, the threat was given more force yesterday because for the first time it was delivered personally by the President.

Seoul confirmed it was monitoring the North closely. “We believe they are taking follow-up steps,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the South Korean Defense Ministry, alluding to movements of North Korean military units.

Images released by the state-run KCNA news agency showed the leader, who took over when his father, Kim Jong-Il, died suddenly in 2011, in a military situation room apparently signing the order to put the weapons on standby. On the wall is a map entitled “Strategic Forces’ US Mainland Striking Plan”, showing missile trajectories heading towards Washington DC, Los Angeles and, oddly, Austin, Texas.

“North Korea continues to openly threaten the United States,” the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul, said in Washington yesterday. “While it is unlikely that the regime has the capability to carry out its plots, we still cannot ignore its violent intentions.  We must remain vigilant against this escalating enemy.”

China, which ostensibly remains North Korea’s only ally, urged restraint while making no mention of the flight of the B2 bombers. Moscow was less circumspect. “We are concerned that alongside the adequate, collective reaction of the UN Security Council, unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, adding: “The situation could simply get out of control.”

US allies in the region that could be threatened by North Korea should be reassured by the B-2 over-flights, officials said.  “The reaction to the B-2 that we’re most concerned about is not necessarily the reaction it might elicit in North Korea, but rather among our Japanese and Korean allies,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Pentagon. “Those exercises are mostly to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict.”

Nations refuse to sign 'flawed' arms treaty

AP

Iran, Syria and North Korea have blocked the adoption of the first international treaty to regulate the $70bn global conventional arms trade, complaining that it was flawed and failed to ban weapons sales to rebel groups.

UN member states began meeting last week in a push to hammer out a binding international treaty to end the lack of regulation over cross-border conventional arms sales.

Human rights groups say a treaty is needed to halt the uncontrolled flow of arms that they say fuels wars and rights abuses. Delegates to the conference said they were close to approving the treaty, before Iran, Syria and North Korea blocked it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas