The American bases on the Pacific island of Guam and in Japan, including on its southernmost island of Okinawa are well within range of missiles Pyongyang has successfully tested in recent years and it’s unclear what prompted it to underline that fact now.
However, it has reacted angrily to ongoing joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises and the involvement in this year’s annual drill of a Guam-based B-52 bomber.
The official KCNA news agency quoted a military spokesman as saying the U.S. should not forget that “the Anderson [Andersen] Air Force base on Guam where the B-52s take off, as well as the Japanese mainland where nuclear-powered submarines are deployed and the navy bases on Okinawa,” were within striking range of the North’s “precision target tools.”
Also, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that radio and television in the North issued air raid alert warnings for mid-morning Thursday, warning civilians and military personnel to take cover, citing enemy air-strikes. An hour later, the broadcasters said the alert had been lifted.
While the messages apparently gave no indication that it was a routine drill, a South Korean military official told Yonhap it was viewing the exercise in that light.
Meanwhile South Korean officials probing a severe cyber-attack on the country’s computer networks on Wednesday said North Korea was “strongly” suspected of being responsible.
Banks and television broadcasters were among those targeted by malicious code sent by unidentified hackers on Wednesday, and after analyzing source codes a government communications body said the attack appeared to be linked to a Chinese Internet Protocol address. This prompted suspicions that North Korea was behind the attack, judging from similar – although more limited – cases in the past, including the shutdown last year of a major conservative daily newspaper.
Just days ago, North Korea accused the U.S. and South Korea of launching cyber-attacks against its servers, and vowed to “never remain a passive onlooker” in the face of such attacks.
Angered by the annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise and new U.N. sanctions imposed in response to its latest nuclear weapons test, Pyongyang has stepped up its usual bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks.
It threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S. and announced – not for the first time – that it was withdrawing from its 60 year-old armistice with South Korea.