While the actual war fighting intent of North Korea remains an enigma, its various “sabre-rattling” threats to conduct a nuclear first strike on neighbouring countries and US bases in the region is being taken seriously, especially in the light of Japanese media reports that satellites have observed long range or medium range ballistic missiles being transported to the coastline of North Korea.
As such, while Japanese and US Aegis/Standard Missile SM-3 equipped naval destroyers and cruisers have already been deployed in the Sea of Japan, the US Department of Defense has also announced that it is to also deploy land-based THAAD missile intercepters to protect its bomber aircraft base in Guam. Although North Korea is officiallly doubted to have yet managed to acquire the capability to hit mainland USA with nuclear weapons, it is believed to have the ballistic missile capability, via its Taepodong-2 missiles or newer KN-08 missiles, to hit the island of Guam and mainland Japan.
THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missiles are truck mounted and are specifically designed to defend against medium range ballistic missiles. The US DOD has anounced that these missiles are deployed as a “precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat,”
While a recent US Air Flight B-2 Stealth bomber flight across South Korea was seen as provocative riposte to recent warlike declarations from North Korea, the US government has since tried to diffuse the situation by cancelling one of its own ballistic missile tests. The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) had previously declared itself to be still at war with South Korea, that it would target US bases and cities with nuclear weapons in the event of war (including making a first strike), and has since warned all foreign embassies in its capital Pyongyang that it cannot be held responsible for the future safety of foreign diplomats.
Comment by David Todd: It is thought that while North Korea may not want to begin an all out war with South Korea, Japan and USA, a demonstration of its military power may be imminent. This may include a new nuclear weapons test and/or a ballistic missile flight. The demonstration may combine the two, with a fission-class nuclear warhead being launched by a ballistic missile as part of such a weapons test. Such a test would be in obvious breach of the international test ban on overground atmospheric nuclear explosions. Currently, only underground nuclear weapons testing is allowed.