SEOUL – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered preparations on Friday for strategic rocket strikes on the US mainland and military bases after US stealth bombers flew training runs over South Korea.
Kim directed his rocket units on standby at an overnight emergency meeting with top army commanders, hours after nuclear-capable US B-2 stealth bombers were deployed in ongoing US joint military drills with South Korea.
In the event of any "reckless" US provocation, North Korean forces should "mercilessly strike the US mainland... military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," he was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
While North Korea has no proven ability to conduct such strikes, Kim argued that the stealth bomber flights went beyond a simple demonstration of force and amounted to a US "ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost".
The United States rarely acknowledges B-2 flights to the Korean peninsula, which remains technically at war. The aircraft, which dodge anti-aircraft defences, bombed targets in conflicts in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
The flights came as part of annual drills between the United States and South Korea, which North Korea each year denounces as rehearsals for war. Pyongyang has been particularly vocal this time, angered by UN sanctions imposed after its long-range rocket launch in December and the third nuclear test it carried out last month.
Kim's order formalised steps already taken by the Korean People's Army (KPA), which put its strategic rocket units at combat-ready status on Tuesday. The following day it cut the last remaining military hotline with South Korea. AFP