North Korea said on Wednesday it is "carefully examining" a plan to strike the US Pacific territory of Guam with missiles, just hours after President Donald Trump said that any threat to the United States would be met with "fire and fury".
A spokesman for the Korean People's Army, in a statement carried by the North's state-run KCNA news agency, said the strike plan will be "put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment" on the say-so of leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea also accused the US of devising a "preventive war", which it added would be met with an "all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland".
The territory is home to about 163,000 people and a US military base that includes a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
Governor Eddie Calvo dismissed the North's threat and said the island was prepared for "any eventuality" with strategically placed defences. He said he had been in touch with the White House and there was no change in the threat level.
The threat to Guam emerged hours after President Trump yesterday fired off his strongest warning yet to North Korea in comments that caused alarm about the prospect of a nuclear conflict around the world.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," he said.
It is believed the statement from Pyongyang was not a response to the President's comments, but was put together before he made them and promoted via state media in their wake.
Nevertheless, the dramatic increase in tensions caused Asian financial markets to fall and prompted warnings from US officials and analysts that the US should not get involved in a war of words with the totalitarian state.
North Korea has proudly flaunted its progress in developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US and ignored international calls to halt its weapons programmes.
Pyongyang claims its atomic weapons programme is justified as a bulwark against perceived US hostility, condemning shows of force during joint military drills with South Korea.
The US has remained technically at war with North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended without a peace treaty.
Seoul is home to roughly 10 million people and within range of massed North Korean rockets and artillery, which would be impossible to destroy in a first US strike.
Tens of thousands of US troops remain stationed in South Korea and in nearby Japan, the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons. Wednesday marked the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki by the United States.
"Tension is mounting when it comes to the international situation surrounding nuclear weapons," Nagasaki mayor Tomihisa Taue told a ceremony marking the attack.
"Strong fears are spreading that nuclear weapons may be used in the not-so-distant future."
Agencies contributed to this report
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