Pyongyang tripled down on Kim Jong-un's New Year's claim that North Korea is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday.
"We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in his New Year's address, adding that, "Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing."
"The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere," the Korean Central News Agency said Sunday, quoting a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson.
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it's the same delivery system as North Korea's Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)
"Just because the U.S. is located more than ten thousand kilometers away does not make the country safe," the Rodong Sinmun, the primary publication of the ruling Worker's Party, asserted Wednesday.
"Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down its spine," the paper warned. "There is nothing we are afraid of. In the future, phenomenal incidents to strengthen our national defense power will take place multiple times and repeatedly."
"We have miniaturized, lightened and diversified our nuclear weapons, and they can be loaded on various delivery systems to be launched anytime and anywhere," the Rodong Sinmun boasted.
In response to any such theoretical action, the U.S. promises shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile "if it were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies," Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Sunday.
"If the missile is threatening, it will be intercepted. If it's not threatening, we won't necessarily do so," Carter explained Tuesday.
The effectiveness of America's missile interception capabilities is debatable.
The U.S. has a "limited capability to defend the U.S. homeland from small numbers of simple" North Korean nuclear-tipped ICBMs, the Pentagon's weapons testing office warned in its annual report, according to Bloomberg.
"I am very confident in the systems and procedures" the U.S. Northern Command "will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it toward our territory," Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters.
Pyongyang "has set the goal of developing miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the U.S. by the end of 2017," former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho told Yonhap News Agency Sunday.
"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!" President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a day after Kim made North Korea's ICBM ambitions clear.
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