North Korean threat to Guam tests credibility of Kim and Trump

The New York Times reports: North Korea’s vow to ignite an “enveloping fire” of test missiles near the American island of Guam is the first time it has specified a target with so much detail, escalating a showdown between Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and President Trump.

For Mr. Kim, failure of the plan announced on Thursday, which includes precise details like splashdown points and exact travel times for four test missiles, would be a potentially costly blunder that could subvert his authority.

For Mr. Trump, whose dire warnings to North Korea — which he further escalated on Thursday — have echoed Mr. Kim’s own screeds, a successful North Korean test would be an embarrassment that could force him into exceedingly difficult choices about military action.

But North Korea’s prospective test also includes some maneuvering room for a possible compromise, South Korean analysts said. North Korea said the missile launches were still in the planning phase and would not be finalized until later this month, raising the possibility of delay or cancellation.

The four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles to be aimed toward the vicinity of Guam, home to a strategic American base, would fly 2,085.7 miles in 17 minutes, 45 seconds, North Korea said in announcing the plan. The missiles would splash down 18.6 to 24.8 miles from Guam’s coast, the North said.

“By revealing this detailed plan, North Korea is trying to show that its Hwasong-12 missile is a reliable system and that it has capabilities of operating nuclear missiles,” said Shin Beom-chul, a security expert at the government-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

Even though North Korea has conducted 80 missile tests under Mr. Kim, it has never launched a missile toward a target as far as Guam and has never disclosed such precise flight data in advance. [Continue reading…]

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