North Korea claimed on Sunday it could test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time from any location set by leader Kim Jong Un, saying a hostile US policy was to blame for its arms development.
As per an exclusive story in Reuters, Kim said on January 1 that his nuclear-capable country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
"The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters of the DPRK," an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency, using the acronym for the country's name.
The North is formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Sunday that North Korea's nuclear weapons capabilities and ballistic missile defense programs constituted a "serious threat" .
The United States said on Jan. 5 that North Korea had demonstrated a "qualitative" improvement in its nuclear and missile capabilities after an unprecedented level of tests last year.
North Korea has been testing rocket engines and heat-shields for an ICBM while developing the technology to guide a missile after re-entry into the atmosphere following a liftoff, experts have said.
While Pyongyang is close to a test, it is likely to take some years to perfect the weapon, according to the experts.
Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States, which is around 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from the North. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,400 miles), but some are designed to travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles) or farther.