North Korea’s po­ten­tial tar­gets: South Korea, Ja­pan and Guam

Austin American-Statesman - - NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR WEAPONS - Choe Sang Hun ©2017 The New York Times

Un­til re­cently, the world con­sid­ered North Korea largely a men­ace on the Korean Penin- sula, its mil­i­tary most threat­en­ing to the 25 mil­lion peo­ple of Seoul and the sprawl- ing area around the South Korean cap­i­tal.

But with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warn­ing of un­leash­ing “fire and fury” against North Korea and the North demon­strat­ing its mis­siles can fly far be­yond the pen- in­sula, peo­ple across Asia are re­con­sid­er­ing. In­creas­ingly, coun­tries in the re­gion, es­pe­cially those host­ing U.S. mil­i­tary bases, are ask­ing: Are they po­ten­tial tar­gets of North Korean re­tal­i­a­tion?

On Wed­nes­day, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, sin­gled out the U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam as a po­ten­tial tar­get. North Korean mis­siles have also re­cently landed not far from the coast of Ja­pan, a cru­cial U.S. mil­i­tary ally. South Korea re­mains the most likely tar­get of any North Korean coun­terat- tack should the United States take mil­i­tary ac­tion to try to stop the North’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams.

Here is a look at each:

Guam

North Korea warned it was con­sid­er­ing a strike that would cre­ate “an en­velop­ing fire” around Guam, an Amer­i­can ter­ri­tory that is home to vi­tal U.S. mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. Guam’s gov­er­nor, Ed­die Baza Calvo, played the down threat of a North Korean at­tack in a video ad­dress Wed­nes­day.

“I want to re­as­sure the peo­ple of Guam that cur­rently there is no threat to our is­land or the Mar­i­anas,” he said, re­fer­ring to the nearby North­ern Mar- iana Is­lands chain, a U.S. com­mon­wealth. Calvo said of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary com- man­ders were “pre­pared for any even­tu­al­ity.”

Guam is a po­ten­tial tar­get be­cause it is a strate­gic U.S. mil­i­tary out­post and home to nu­clear-equipped bombers that can strike North Korea. Just this week two Amer­i­can B-1 bombers flew from Guam over the Korean Penin­sula. And North Korean mis­sile tests sug­gest that, at 2,100 miles from North Korea, it is within range of the coun­try’s ar­se­nal.

South Korea

The con­ven­tional wis­dom holds that any North Korean re­tal­i­a­tion would tar­get U.S. Air Force and mil­i­tary bases in South Korean towns like Kun­san and Osan as well as ma­jor ports in the South to ham­per and de­lay the ar­rival of U.S. mil­i­tary rein- force­ments. Seoul it­selflies within range of North Korean ar­tillery and rock­ets that are de­ployed in large num­bers along the bor­der.

The North Korean mil­i­tary warned on Wed­nes­day that it would “burn up all the ob­jects” in bor­der re­gions of the South, in­clud­ing Seoul, “the mo­ment the U.S. reck- less at­tempt at pre-emp­tive at­tack is spot­ted” and that “the whole of the south­ern half ” of Korea would be its tar­get.

But North Korea has a mul- ti­tude of op­tions, es­pe­cially ones for which its en­e­mies would not quickly be able to trace the ori­gin, like cy­ber­at­tacks, an­a­lysts said.

It could also, for ex­am­ple, seize Ja­panese, South Korean and Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and hold them hostage, us­ing them as a lever­age to drive a wedge be­tween Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies, es­pe­cially should Trump launch a mil­i­tary at­tack with­out con­sult­ing U.S. al­lies, they said.

Ja­pan

In Ja­pan, spe­cial­ists said the most likely tar­gets for any North Korean at­tack would be Tokyo, the po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial cap­i­tal with some 35 mil­lion res­i­dents in its met­ro­pol­i­tan area, and U.S. mil­i­tary bases scat­tered around the coun­try.

The United States has close to 50,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel in Ja­pan un­der the coun­tries’ decades-old al­liance. About half are on the small south­ern is­land of Ok­i­nawa, while the rest are spread over dozens of bases else­where.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties around Ja­pan, in­clud­ing some close to U.S. bases, have con­ducted evac­u­a­tion drills in re­cent months as con­cern has grown over the North’s mis­sile pro­gram. The gov­ern­ment has aired pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments ex­plain­ing how to take cover from an in­com­ing mis­sile.

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