(USA TODAY) - Threats of a missile strike toward Guam escalated Thursday as North Korean media reported that the nation’s military is “seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike” using four intermediate-range ballistic rockets.
If North Korea fires missiles toward Guam, they would take about 14 minutes to reach the island, said Guam Homeland Security spokeswoman Jenna Gaminde.
She said residents would be immediately notified by the 15 All-Hazards Alert Warning System sirens, located in low-lying areas throughout the island.
“Our office will be notified from the military and will utilize all forms of mass communication to get the message out to the public,” Gaminde said. Local media, village mayors and social media would be used to disseminate information, she said.
“If you hear the sirens, tune into local media — radio, print, television — for further instructions," Gaminde said.
North Korea media reports state the country would “strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets.” The plan, which will not be ready until mid-August, is intended to "signal a crucial warning to the U.S," according to North Korea media.
According to the reports, the North Korea military said the missiles will travel the 2,100-mile distance, flying over Japan and landing near Guam.
Greg Kuntz, acting public affairs director for Joint Region Marianas, said the military on island continues to maintain standard operations amid the ongoing threats from North Korea.
“We always maintain a high state of readiness,” Kuntz said. “We’re maintaining normal operations.”
Local and federal officials said there’s no change in threat level and all operations continue as normal.
Kuntz said that nothing has changed in terms of Joint Region Marianas’ procedures when it comes to communications between the military and dependents both on and off island.
Gov. Eddie Calvo and Guam Homeland Security Advisor George Charfauros on Wednesday noted the defense systems put in place in the region, such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile system permanently stationed at Andersen Air Force Base.
Guam’s faced previous threats of a rocket attack from North Korea, which has been conducting frequent tests of its nuclear missile capability. Most recently, in March 2013, North Korean military officials made a statement about Andersen Air Force Base being within “striking range.”
And in October 2006, an unofficial spokesman for North Korea in Japan told ABC Radio Australia that Guam, Japan and Hawaii were potential targets if the U.N. levied tougher sanctions against North Korea.
Carl Peterson, president of Money Resources Inc., who has served on the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee, expressed confidence in the defense capabilities the U.S. military has put in place around Guam. He noted the presence of the THAAD missile system and nearby U.S. Naval destroyers.
“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. No missile is going to land on Guam,” Peterson said. “We’ve got defense mechanisms in place … they have the ability to seek out the missiles with kinetic energy and destroy it.”
“They’ve improved their missile launch capacity, but that’s neither here nor there,” he said. “If you’re going to fire it at somebody, it’s going to get shot down. Now they have more capacity for launching missiles, but in my view, no missile is going to hit Guam.”
Island residents woke up Wednesday to national headlines of the North Korean missile threat, which came after statements by President Donald Trump, who said, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.”
Trump told reporters from the clubhouse of his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
U.S. tensions with North Korea and its ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon have been a concern for the last four presidential administrations, Peterson noted. Regardless of who was in the White House, he said, diplomacy failed.
"It’s gotten progressively worse over the last 20 years,” Peterson said.
Trump's rhetoric toward North Korea has sparked criticism from some liberals, who question Trump’s temperament to handle the tense situation. Peterson said he reserves judgement, stating that everyone responds differently to a bully.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Wednesday echoed Trump’s tough stance against the threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, stating that a provocation would be met with the “destruction of its people.”
“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis told the North Korea leader in a Department of Defense press release. “The DPRK should cease any consideration of action that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
The U.S. and its allies, Mattis also said, are capable of fending off an attack. He added that Kim Jong-un should “take heed of the” U.N.’s security council, which believes North Korea “poses a threat to global security and stability.”
“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.”
Government Accountability Reporter Shawn Raymundo covers local politics and the territory’s executive and legislative branches. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and Instagram @Shawn_Del_Mundo. Follow Pacific Daily News on Facebook/GuamPDN and Instagram @guampdn.
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