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North Korea nuclear crisis

Guam ‘very well protected’ against possible North Korean missile attack, US nuclear commander says

General John Hyten told a Washington think tank event he is ‘very confident’ in US’ ability to protect all 50 American states from a North Korean missile assault

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 7:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 7:18am

The US Pacific territory island of Guam is “very well protected” by the nation’s missile defence capability against a possible North Korean missile attack, a US nuclear commander said on Wednesday.

General John Hyten, the commander of the US Strategic Command who oversees the US nuclear arsenal, told an event presented by the Washington-based Hudson Institute think tank that he is “very confident” in the US’ ability to protect all 50 American states.

“US missile defence capability is built to go against North Korea’s threat,” Hyten said. “The [missile defence system’s] sensors and radars we have are focused on North Korea, and the interceptors [used to hit the missiles] are tuned to North Korea.”

“Guam is very well protected ... We have the good defence as we can build to protect Guam [and] Hawaii.”

The US military could use its missile defence systems, including the THAAD or Aegis systems, to intercept North Korea’s missiles.

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After its two successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, North Korea in early August had threatened to strike Guam in response to US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric that any threat by Pyongyang would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

Guam, a base for US naval and air forces, is about 3400km from North Korea, a distance that an intermediate-range ballistic missile could reach.

Trump on Monday said in his speech at the United Nations summit in New York that if the US is forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”.

The US president referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man”, adding that Kim is “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime”.

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Hyten also acknowledged at the event that the US missile defence system needs to be improved. He said a “space-based censor capability” is needed for better global detection of missile threats.