North Korea threatened to fire missiles towards Guam Wednesday, but the U.S. and its allies claim they are ready to counter this threat.
As the North plans to fire four intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan, the long-time U.S. ally has announced that it will intercept the missiles in the event that North Korea follows through with its plans.
The North Korean strategic rocket force is “seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.,” North Korean state media reported Wednesday.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said during a parliamentary meeting that any attack on Guam would be regarded as an existential threat to Japan, stating that Japan could legally shoot down the missile to defend American territory.
While the willingness to protect the U.S. is welcome, experts assess that Japan’s defense systems would not be able to stop an IRBM headed for Guam, home to Andersen Air Force Base and essential strategic military assets, including powerful conventional and nuclear-capable bombers.
The U.S. asserts that it is prepared for any contingency involving North Korean missiles.
“Any type of attack will not be successful but at the same time an attack on Guam will be considered attack on United States and will be met with an overwhelming force,” Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo told Al Jazeera.
“We are always in a high-state of readiness,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have the capability to counter any threat, to include those from North Korea.”
“We stand this watch each and every day,” General Lori Robinson, Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said in a statement after North Korea’s latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. “NORAD and USNORTHCOM, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Pacific Command remain vigilant in the face of these continued North Korean provocations. We are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain the security of their region and our great Nation.”
The U.S. has a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system and Aegis destroyers equipped with missile interceptors in place to defend Guam. The THAAD missile defense system, which is also being deployed in South Korea, is one of the U.S. military’s most reliable ballistic missile defense systems with a perfect test performance record of 15 out of 15.
“We stand in high confidence with the U.S. [Department of Defense’s] ability to not only defend Guam and the surrounding areas but also the continental U.S.,” Guam Homeland Security Advisor George Charfauros told CNN Thursday.
Kinetic missile defense is a challenge, though, as it essentially involves striking a bullet with another bullet, which is no easy task. The U.S. and its allies have advanced, layered missile defense systems, but there are always risks.
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