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N. Korea says US bases in Japan, Guam are within range of attack

Nuclear attack submarine USS Cheyenne is guided into into a Busan port by two South Korean Navy tugboats March 20, 2013.

SEOUL — North Korea warned Thursday that U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam are within range of a “precision strike.”

The latest threat from the cloistered country was issued the same week that B-52 bombers and a nuclear attack submarine were dispatched to the Korean peninsula from those bases to participate in ongoing joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

“The U.S. should not forget that the Andersen Air Force Base on Guam where the B-52s take off, and naval bases in Japan proper and Okinawa where nuclear-powered submarines are launched, are within the striking range of (North Korea’s) precision strike means,” the North’s “supreme command” said in a statement on the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

In recent weeks, North Korea has also warned that it would turn Seoul and Washington, D.C. into a “sea of fire,” said it no longer recognizes the armistice that effectively ended the Korean War and labeled the U.S.-South Korea Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises this month as provocative practice for a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the North.

The North has stepped up the intensity of its normal flow of rhetoric and bellicose threats following the United Nations’ recent decision to slap additional sanctions on the rogue nation as punishment for its recent nuclear test and a satellite launch many considered a test of its long-range missile technology.

Experts generally agree North Korea does not have the technology to reach the U.S. mainland, or even Hawaii, with a missile. However, they say the North is capable of hitting Guam and Japan.

The Pentagon announced this month that it plans to beef up its missile-defense systems in South Korea, Japan and Alaska because of the continuing threat posed by North Korea, and American officials have said they remain confident the U.S. and its Pacific allies are prepared to counter any missile attack from the North.

While the Foal Eagle exercise will continue through April 30, Thursday marked the end of the Key Resolve war games which, for the first time, were led by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Our combined forces effectively exercised our plans to defend the Republic of Korea against external aggression and restore stability to the Korean peninsula,” said Gen. Jung Seung-Jo, chairman of the South Korea Joint Chiefs, without specifically mentioning North Korea,

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. James Thurman added: “These exercises also demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and enhance our ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise.”

Rabiroff.jon@stripes.com

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