U.S. would probably shield Guam against any missiles
N. Korea is under surveillance, giving military response time
If North Korea followed through on its threat to fire ballistic missiles near Guam, the U.S. military probably would try to shoot them down, raising the stakes even further in a dangerous global standoff.
U.S. commanders would have little time to make a critical decision about whether any inbound missiles represented a threat to Guam, home to two large military bases and about 7,000 U.S. service members.
A ballistic missile would take only about 14 minutes to reach Guam from North Korea, according to Guam’s Homeland Security office.
North Korea is under U.S. surveillance, including spy satellites, which would give U.S. authorities advance warning before a missile launch.
The Pentagon would probably view any missiles heading near Guam as a threat and try to shoot them down, analysts said.
“We would have to take proper self-defense measures,” said David Maxwell, a retired Army colonel and associate director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. “We would not want to take a chance to allow it to hit.”
U.S. commanders would not want to take a chance on whether the missile carried a warhead or was accurate enough to land in the water as intended.
North Korea said Thursday it was developing plans to launch four medium-range ballistic missiles that would land 19 to 25 miles from the western Pacific island. The warning came amid heightened tensions between the countries over North Ko- rea’s nuclear weapons program.
President Trump said Tuesday the United States would respond to threats from North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
The U.S. military regularly tracks North Korea’s missile launches but does not intercept them once it determines they are not on a course to hit U.S. territory or an ally, such as Japan or South Korea.
In 2013, the U.S. military deployed a missile-defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, to Guam in response to threats by North Korea.
The system is also being deployed in South Korea.
North Korea launches an intercontinental ballistic missile July 4. The regime has threatened to fire missiles near Guam, but experts say the Pentagon would try to shoot them down.