As World War 3 speculation hovers over several fronts, no theater seems quite as volatile as the Korean peninsula and the closest American striking point — U.S. territory Guam, which lies about 2,130 miles from North Korea.
On Tuesday evening, a representative of the Korean People’s Army released a statement indicating that Pyongyang was “carefully examining” a plan to attack Guam, reported Reuters. State news agency KCNA reported North Korean authorities were simply waiting for the final judgment call from Kim Jong-Un.
“The KPA Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in order to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam including the Anderson Air Force Base.”
Historians who have warned that World War 3 may be on the horizon point to an uptick in strongman politicians coming to power through nationalist campaigns, a central element of the conditions that led to World War 2. As examples, some have used the victories of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and Donald Trump in the U.S. Trump himself has repeatedly threatened to use deadly force if North Korea strikes, promising “fire and fury like the world has never seen” just before the recent threat of an attack on Guam.
Guam is home to a resident population of about 162,000 people as well as a U.S. submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group. One local woman, Graceful Fiden, 28, of Tumon, told USA Today that should found the possibility of aggressive action from North Korea alarming.
“The threat is pretty scary. It’s going on further, so we should worry about it,… [but] I believe in the military on Guam, together with the U.S.”
Local authorities in Guam also responded hopefully to the situation. George Charfauros, Homeland Security adviser, issued a statement that seemed to downplay the potential of a World War 3 inciting incident.
“We will continue to keep the public updated on any changes or requests for action. For now, we advise the community to remain calm, remember that there are defenses in place for threats such as North Korea and to continue to remain prepared for all hazards.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has repeatedly denied that the U.S. plans to implement regime change in North Korea, but that has not deterred the country from accusing the U.S. of arming a “preventative war,” presumably to create a context that would allow an invasion. Fallout from the conflict would likely hit South Korea the worst, as U.S. forces would triumph over the KPA easily, but perhaps not before the DPRK deals a heavy blow to its neighbor.
North Korea’s nuclear program has been at the center of international sanctions talks, including a sweeping set passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council last weekend. The so-called hermit kingdom amped up development of such weapons following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. After watching the fate of Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi, Kim is unlikely to budge any time soon, reported the National Interest.
“The North already has a nuclear capability and views preservation of a nuclear arsenal as critical for domestic politics as well as international policy. Moreover, the West’s ouster of Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi is seen in Pyongyang as dispositive proof that only a fool would negotiate away missile and nuclear capabilities.”
Kim has confirmed that this is the DPRK’s line of thinking on several occasions, including to Reuters a few years after he assumed his role as Supreme Leader of North Korea in 2011.
“The greater the nuclear attack capability, the greater the strength of the deterrent against an invasion… Our nuclear strength is… a guarantee to protect our sovereignty.”
With both sides buckling down, one can only hope that conflict, World War 3 or not, isn’t imminent.
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]