North Korean missiles on standby, aimed at US targets

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered rocket units to go on standby for an attack on American bases on Friday. The order came in response to U.S. stealth bomber flights over the Korean peninsula, BBC News reports.

Potential missile targets include the U.S. mainland and bases in Hawaii, Guam and South Korea.

Two U.S. stealth bombers flew a 13,000-mile round trip from Missouri to drop a dummy bomb over the Korean peninsula on Thursday as part of the annual U.S.-South Korea military drills.  According to a statement by the U.S. military, the planes were intended to demonstrate America’s ability to “provide extended deterrence” in order to defend its allies.

Earlier this month, the U.S. also flew nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers over the area to deter North Korea from following through on threats to strike targets in South Korea.

“The North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous,” U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday. “We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously, and we’ll respond to that.”

A new round of UN sanctions and provocative displays of military force from South Korea and the U.S. prompted the North Korean leader to take a step towards combat readiness.

In a midnight meeting with top generals, Kim Jong-Un said it is time “to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists,” KCNA reported. Thousands of soldiers and students participated in a rally in downtown Pyongyang on Friday to support Kim Jong-Un’s decision.

Russian foreign minister Larvrov cautioned that the situation could “slide into a spiral of a vicious circle.” He also hinted that while a military build-up on the part of both the U.S. and North Korea is ill-advised, Kim Jong-Un’s actions are “unacceptable”.

The U.S. has put pressure on China — North Korea’s ally and biggest trading partner— to subdue North Korea.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute, is criticizing Washington’s strategy of “reflexively blaming China for the continuing impasse.”

China voted for the recent round of sanctions against North Korea in the U.N. Security Council and has repeatedly admonished North Korea.

Carpenter has urged U.S. policy makers and pundits to take into account that it is not in China’s interest to further coerce North Korea. He points out that cutting off vital food and energy supplies to North Korea may result in a refugee crisis for China or push North Korea towards rash military action.

Rather than rely on China, “the U.S. and its allies need to do more,” says Carpenter.