N. Korean state media issue photos appearing to show US strike plans

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean state media issued two photos Friday that, either by accident or design, appeared to show plans for striking the US mainland, as well as details of the North's military strength.

The pictures, released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), both showed leader Kim Jong Un sitting at a desk in what looked like a dedicated military operations room.

The photos accompanied a KCNA report on an emergency meeting with top army leaders in which Mr Kim ordered strategic rocket units to prepare for a possible strike against US mainland and Pacific bases.

One picture showed Mr Kim amongst four uniformed officers, but the main interest lay in the background.

The left of the picture showed a map with the unambiguous title: "Strategic Forces' US Mainland Striking Plan".

Straight lines on the map - not all of which was visible - appeared to show the proposed flight paths of missiles striking targets in the continental United States.

"I don't think this is a mistake," a South Korean defence ministry official told AFP.

"I believe it has been intentionally made public, probably in order to distort facts about the North's military power," the official said.

Most experts say North Korea, despite a successful long-range rocket launch in December, is years from developing a genuine inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.

Its proven short- and medium-range missiles do not even have the range to strike US Pacific bases in Guam or Hawaii.

Further in the background of the same picture, a wall-length screen appeared to list aspects of North Korea's naval strength, with entries such as "Submarines: 40, Landing Craft: 13, Minesweepers: 6".

A second photo, showing Mr Kim alone at his desk, also had a map in the background which appeared to show the tracked or projected movement of the US 7th Fleet in the Pacific Ocean.

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