SEOUL/BEDMINSTER, N.J.: North Korea said on Wednesday it is considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after President Donald Trump told the North that any threat to the United States would be met with "fire and fury".
The ratcheting up in tensions rattled global financial markets and prompted warnings from U.S. officials and analysts not to engage in rhetorical slanging matches with North Korea.
Pyongyang said it was "carefully examining" a plan to strike Guam, an island of around 162,000 in the western Pacific and the site of a U.S. military base that hosts a submarine squadron, an airbase and a Coast Guard group.
A Korean People's Army (KPA) spokesman, in a statement carried by state-run KCNA news agency, said the plan would be put into practice at any moment once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.
In another statement citing a different military spokesman, North Korea also accused the United States of devising a "preventive war" and said any plans to execute this would be met with an "all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the U.S. mainland".
Washington has warned it is ready to use force if need be to stop North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programmes but that it prefers global diplomatic action, including sanctions.
Speaking to reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday, Trump issued his strongest warning yet for North Korea.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," Trump said.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday over its continued missile tests, that could slash the reclusive country's $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.
North Korea has made no secret of plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile able to strike the United States and has ignored international calls to halt its nuclear and missile programmes.
It says its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are a legitimate means of defence against perceived U.S. hostility. It has long accused the United States and South Korea of escalating tensions by conducting military drills.
U.S. stocks closed slightly lower after Trump's comment and S&P stock futures (ESc1) slipped further in Asian trade, while a widely followed measure of stock market anxiety ended at its highest in nearly a month.
The U.S. dollar index edged down and the safe-haven yen strengthened against the U.S. currency after North Korea's response. Asia stocks dipped, with South Korea's benchmark index and Japan's Nikkei both falling 0.5 per cent.