SEOUL — North Korea put its artillery and “strategic” rocket units on combat ready status Tuesday, with orders to prepare for strikes against the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam, state media reported.
A statement from the Korean People’s Army supreme command ordered “all artillery troops including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units to be placed under class-A combat readiness”.
The units should be prepared to attack “all US military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, including the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam”, as well as South Korea, said the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
Despite its successful long-range rocket launch in December, most experts believe North Korea is years from developing a genuine inter-continental ballistic missile that could strike the continental United States.
Hawaii and Guam would also be outside the range of its medium-range missiles, which would be capable, however, of striking US military bases in South Korea and Japan.
The supreme command announcement came days after the South Korean and US militaries signed a new pact, providing for a joint military response to even low-level provocative action by North Korea.
While existing agreements provide for US engagement in the event of a full-scale conflict, the new protocol addresses the response to a limited provocation such as an isolated incident of cross-border shelling.
It guarantees US support for any South Korean retaliation and allows Seoul to request any additional US military force it deems necessary.
North Korea shelled a South Korean border island in November 2010, killing four people.