President Donald Trump heightened tensions further than anybody in Korea would like, as he threatened to bring "fire and fury" to the region. But if North Korea retaliates, fires a first strike, or even sends out warning missiles, it could affect a far greater area of the world, given what we know about the ranges of North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles. North Korea's target list likely focuses on hitting the mainland United States, allies in Asia, or closer U.S. territories.
The New York Times ran a story on North Korea's potential target list on Wednesday and focused specifically on Guam, South Korea, and Japan — all a U.S. ally or territory. Thanks to some menacing threats coming from North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un via state media on Wednesday, Guam is most definitely on its list of targets. The report said the missiles will be meant "to send a serious warning signal to the U.S."
More than just threats, the North Korean military issued a report with very specific plans to fire missiles into water near Guam — and over Japan. "The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA (Korean People's Army) will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima, and Koichi Prefectures of Japan," the report said, according to CNBC. "They will fly 3,356.7 km (2,085.8 miles) for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km (18 to 25 miles) away from Guam."
That's awfully close. As the report spells out, the missiles would fly over Japan, (in addition to some heavily trafficked sea and air routes). According to The Times, Japan makes sense as a target, too, because it houses U.S. military bases. If North Korea attempted to strike Japan, those strikes would probably be focused on the U.S. military bases. They're located close together on Okinawa, but other bases are spread among the other islands too, making much of Japan a potential target.
For much the same reason, South Korea, too, is a potential target in the area. The North's ultimate goal is reunification, so hitting U.S. bases on the peninsula would make a lot of sense. Photos released by the North's state media also show that there are plans to hit not just U.S. military bases but also sea ports that could be used for bringing in more troops, The Times reported.
There is also, of course, the possibility that North Korea would target Hawaii, Alaska, or the U.S. mainland. According to The Washington Post, the mainland is the holy grail for Kim. Some of the country is definitely within range according to experts who have looked at the situation. Trump's threats alone, however, probably won't be enough to set that ball in motion.