SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's leader says his rocket forces are ready "to settle accounts with the U.S."
Kim Jong Un's (kim jawng oonz) comments are an escalation of the country's bellicose rhetoric and a direct response to the unprecedented announcement that U.S. B-2 stealth bombers had joined military drills with South Korea.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the decision to send the bombers was not intended to provoke North Korea. But the regime sees U.S. nuclear firepower as a direct threat to its existence and claims the annual military drills are a preparation for invasion.
State media reports that Kim met early Friday morning with his senior generals, signed a rocket preparation plan and ordered his forces on standby to strike the U.S. mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.
Many analysts say a full-blown North Korean attack is unlikely and say they've seen no evidence that Pyongyang's missiles can hit the U.S. mainland. But it has capable short- and mid-range missiles and there are concerns there could be a more localized conflict.
Managers at a North Korean industrial facility operated with South Korean know-how say the factory is running smoothly and the overall mood there is normal.