The United States has scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defences, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam, as North Korea said Thursday it had authorised plans for nuclear strikes on US targets.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose threats combined with its military capabilities represented a “real and clear danger” to the United States and to its allies South Korea and Japan.
“They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now,” Hagel said Wednesday. “We take those threats seriously, we have to take those threats seriously.
The Pentagon said it would send ground-based THAAD missile-interceptor batteries to protect military bases on Guam, a US territory some 3,380 kilometres (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea and home to 6,000 American military personnel, submarines and bombers.
They would complement two Aegis anti-missile destroyers already dispatched to the region.
Shortly after the planned THAD deployment was announced, the North Korean military released a statement saying it had received final approval for military action against the United States, possibly involving nuclear weapons.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the Korean People’s Army general staff said, responding to what it called the provocative US use of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in ongoing war games with South Korea.
The US aggression would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means,” the statement said.
“The merciless operation of our revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” it added.
Yun Duk-Min, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul, said the latest threat was similar to one issued a month ago, but with the added weight of “approval” — presumably by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
“The problem is whether Kim, who is still young and inexperienced, knows how to handle this escalation,” Yun said. “Where does it end? That’s the worrying question.”
Later Thursday morning, North Korea blocked access to its Kaesong joint industrial zone with South Korea for the second day running.
Pyongyang had informed Seoul on Wednesday it was stopping the daily movement of South Koreans to the Kaesong complex, the last real surviving point of contact between the two countries.
The North said several hundred South Koreans currently in Kaesong — 10 kilometres (six miles) inside the North Korean border — would be allowed to leave whenever they wanted.
North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States in early March, and last week its supreme army command ordered strategic rocket units to combat status.
While Pyongyang has successfully carried out test nuclear detonations, most experts think it is not yet capable of mounting a device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.
Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula since December, when the North test-launched a long-range rocket. In February, it upped the ante once again by conducting its third nuclear test.
Subsequent UN sanctions and joint South Korea-US military drills triggered weeks of near-daily threats from Pyongyang, ranging from artillery strikes to nuclear armageddon.
The escalating crisis has triggered global concern, with China and Russia issuing repeated calls for restraint and UN Chief Ban Ki-moon warning that the situation had “gone too far” and risked spiralling out of control.
This week, the North warned it would reopen its mothballed Yongbyon reactor — its source of weapons-grade plutonium. It was closed in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord.
Experts said it would take at least six months to get the reactor back up and running, after which it will be able to produce one bomb’s worth of weapons-grade plutonium per year.
LAX customs officer calls journalist ‘fake news’ and demands to know if he works for CNN or MSNBC: report
On Thursday, Empire Magazine's James Dyer stated in a Twitter thread that he was stopped by a customs official while arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, aggressively interrogated about his journalistic career, and accused of being "fake news":
Wow. Just... wow. Just went through LAX immigration. Presented my journalist visa and was stopped by the CBP agent and accused of being part of the ‘fake news media’.
— James Dyer (@jamescdyer) August 22, 2019
‘He does not belong in this office’: Ron Reagan says Trump ‘has been crazy because he is crazy’
The son of Republican President Ronald Reagan blasted President Donald Trump on MSNBC on Tuesday.
Ron Reagan, Jr. was interviewed on "Hardball" by Chris Matthews.
The host recounted Trump's attacks on Denmark after they said Greenland was not for sale.
"He wants to fight with everybody, including the quiet, American-loving Danes. What’s up?" Matthews asked.
"Well, it’s craziness, but I take a little umbrage at this idea that we have to ascribe it to something like the economy or his anxiousness about re-election. He’s acting the way he’s acting because he is who he is and what he is," Reagan replied.
Trump may look unstable now — but the economy is going to make him much worse: CNN’s April Ryan
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "OutFront," analyst and American Urban Radio Network Washington bureau chief April Ryan walked through how President Donald Trump backed himself into a corner by trying to build his brand on a great economy — and is coming to pieces as a result.
"April, what are you hearing? Is the economy causing the president's erratic behavior?" asked anchor Kate Bolduan.
"Yes, yes, and yes," said Ryan. "This president has been touting a great economy, and this is the cornerstone since I guess since the very beginning of his administration for people to feel that he should win re-election, that he is firmly planted for the American public and he's working for them," said Ryan. "But indicators, non-traditional indicators, are saying something different. He is having a hard time trying to marry the great economy with what it looks like for the American public, particularly the grassroots."