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North Korea says Guam missile strike plan ‘ready by mid-August’

LONDON (BBC World/Pacnews) — North Korea says it will be ready by mid-August to fire four missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam, as a war of words with Washington intensifies.

State media said Hwasong-12 rockets would pass over Japan and land in the sea about 30km (17 miles) from Guam, if the plan was approved by Kim Jong-un.

Warnings of “fire and fury” from Donald Trump were denounced, and the U.S. leader was described as “bereft of reason.”

A family plays in the sand in Tumon, Guam on Thursday. The small U.S. territory has become a focal point after the North Korean military threatened to use ballistic missiles to create an “enveloping fire” around the island.  AP

The U.S. has warned the North its actions could mean the “end of its regime.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Pyongyang would be “grossly overmatched” in any war against the U.S. and its allies.

The North first announced on Wednesday that it was planning a missile strike against Guam, which is home to U.S. military bases, strategic bombers and about 163,000 people.

A later statement said the military would “finally complete the plan” by mid-August and report it to leader Kim Jong-un for his approval.

“The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA [Korean People’s Army] will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan,” state news agency KCNA said, quoting army chief Gen. Kim Rak Gyom.

“They will fly 3,356.7km for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30-40km away from Guam.”

It called President Trump’s remarks on Tuesday that the North risked “fire and fury” as “a load of nonsense.”

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” it added.

Amid escalating rhetoric, Mattis issued a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, calling on Pyongyang to halt its arms program.

“The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“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.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has sought to reassure Americans that North Korea does not pose an imminent threat.

Speaking in Guam, he said he was hopeful a global “pressure campaign” involving Russia and China could lead to new dialogue with Pyongyang “about a different future.”

Tillerson said the situation had not dramatically changed over the past few days, and that Americans “should sleep well at night.”

China has urged calm, describing the situation as “complex and sensitive.”

Despite rounds of U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang carried out two nuclear tests last year and two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

On Tuesday, a media report in the U.S. claimed the North had achieved its goal of making a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles.

However, most analysts doubt the country would launch a suicidal pre-emptive attack on the U.S.