N. Korea threatens missile launch anytime, blames US

Seoul, Asserting that it can test-launch an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) at any time from any location chosen by leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea on Monday said the US’s hostile policy was to blame for its arms development.

“The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters of North Korea,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman who was cited by official news agency KCNA.

The spokesman said the inter-continental ballistic missile programme is part of the country’s response to the “increasingly perverse nuclear threat” posed by the US.

Kim said on January 1 in his New Year message that his nuclear-capable country was close to test-launching an ICBM, Efe news reported.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Sunday that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes constitute a “serious threat” to the US.

Washington is prepared to shoot down a North Korean missile launch or test “if it were coming towards our territory, or the territory of our friends and allies”, Carter said on NBC’s show Meet the Press.

US President-elect Donald Trump responded last week to Kim’s comments on an ICBM test by declaring in a tweet, “It won’t happen!”

Analysts have said that while Pyongyang may be close to testing an ICBM, it would likely take years to perfect the weapon.

A South Korean official said North Korea’s latest threat is seen as a form of pressuring the US to change its tough stance towards Pyongyang ahead of the inauguration of a new US administration.

“Pyongyang also appears to shift responsibility for its provocation to the US if it launches the missile,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee told Yonhap news agency.

“There is no imminent indication of North Korea test-firing an ICBM since Pyongyang did not engage in a missile provocation on Kim Jong-un’s birthday (on Sunday),” he said.

Pyongyang’s warning is widely seen as targeting Trump who will take office on January 20. He has not unveiled clear directions of his North Korea policy, but experts forecast Trump to be tough on Pyongyang.

Jeong warned that North Korea will face international sanctions and pressure if it fires off an ICBM.

“We are once again urging North Korea to walk on the path towards denuclearisation,” the spokesman said.