UNITED STATES officials have said they believe North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are now capable of hitting most of the continental United States, after the pariah state conducted another missile test last week.
Two US officials who spoke with Reuters anonymously on Monday confirmed North Korea’s “supreme leader” Kim Jong Un wants to develop a nuclear-capable ICBM to deter attacks on his country and gain international legitimacy, not to launch an attack on the US or its allies.
Nevertheless, advancements in Pyongyang’s nuclear programme are of grave concern and may force Donald Trump’s administration to act, said the officials.
North Korea said on Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an ICBM that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland.
Kim supervised the midnight launch of the missile on Friday night and called it a “stern warning” to the US it would not be safe from destruction if it tried to attack, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the US assessment of the missile launch even as it acknowledged the latest test represented the longest test flight of any North Korean missile.
“The specifics of our assessment are classified for reasons I hope you understand,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told a news briefing, only acknowledging the missile could fly at least 5,500km – the minimum range for what the Pentagon classifies as an ICBM.
“You could have the debate back and forth of whether the capability is proven or not, the fact of the matter is we take it seriously and we are prepared to defend against (it),” Davis said
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with Trump on Monday and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea hours after the US Ambassador to the United Nations said Washington was “done talking about North Korea”.
Additional reporting from Reuters.