North Korea nuclear war unlikely, but risk is rising

Guam is a relatively isolated island known for little more than its USA military port.

"If they had confidence from their readings that they would not hit USA territory, it's possible they'd just let them fall into the sea, but I think they'd also take a very serious look at shooting them down", he said.

Calvo said in an online video message he had contacted the White House and had been told by the defence and homeland security departments there was no change in the threat level. "But here are some people who believe. that we are completely safe regardless of what happens".

A former USA military officer who served multiple tours in South Korea and Japan said that to succeed completely, it would take at least a month, given how well protected and dispersed North Korean targets were.

"It's not something you can do without robust, full support from the South Korean government people, and there's absolutely no sign that South Korea will support military options with North Korea", Delury said.

Andersen Air Force Base on Guam is where the U.S. keeps its B1-B bombers deployed to the Asia Pacific.

A U.S. attack using its bases on Japan's main islands or Okinawa, for example, would bring Japan into any conflict, says Schuster.

Guam is the closest US territory to North Korea at a distance of approximately 2,130 miles. The news was first reported by North Korean state-run news agency KCNA. Protecting the island is the U.S. Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles.

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"Two years ago a permanent deployment of that missile system was placed on Guam", he said.

"If they did launch they could potentially wipe out cities in South Korea and Japan, and in the longer term maybe reach the U.S. West Coast and even further inland", said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Program at the Federation of American Scientists. Japan has also chose to put its military on the highest alert level following the North's threats.

The US stationed some of its atomic weapons in the South following the 1950-53 Korean War, but withdrew them in 1991 when two Koreas jointly declared they would make the peninsula nuclear-free.

There are multiple actions the US or North Korea could take before, for example, targeting the other with a missile: the USA continues to conduct sorties over the Korean peninsula with B-1B Lancer strategic bombers, and North Korea could fire Scud-type missile towards, but not at, Guam. The bombers were joined by Japanese and South Korean aircraft during their mission. You are talking South Korea, the 11th largest economy in the world, Japan, the third largest economy, and you are talking about ground troops on the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang did not develop its nuclear capability to be the aggressor in a war with the USA, says CNN Military Analyst Rick Francona.

As nuclear-armed North Korea's missile stand-off with the United States escalates, calls are mounting in the South for Seoul to build nuclear weapons of its own to defend itself -which would complicate the situation even further. "They developed these weapons to prevent an attack from the US". For years now, we have learned to not take Pyongyang seriously when it lets loose with it colorful rhetorical barrages.

"Now you're looking at a possible strike on American territory (like) Guam, and also the mainland of the United States".

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