North Korea has warned that its rockets are capable of striking the continental United States, two days after Seoul said it signed a deal with Washington to allow South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles.
A spokesperson for the North's National Defense Commission said in state media Tuesday Pyongyang has "strategic rocket forces" that can hit not only the mainland U.S., but also American military bases in South Korea, Japan and Guam.
It is Pyongyang's first public reaction to the deal announced Sunday in Seoul between the U.S. and South Korea, which nearly tripled the range of Seoul's missile system to protect against a possible attack from the nuclear-armed North.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday that rather than “bragging” about its missile capability, North Korea needs to be feeding its own people. She says threats and provocations will only undermine North Korea’s efforts to get back into conversations with the international community.
North Korea is believed to be developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, but they have not been tested successfully. While Pyongyang does have the capability to strike South Korea and other nearby countries, experts say it could not strike the U.S. mainland.
South Korean officials said the new deal allows South Korea to extend the maximum range of ballistic missiles from the current 300 kilometers to 800 kilometers, which would give it the range to hit all of North Korea. The 300-kilometer limit was part of a 2001 accord with the United States.
Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesperson as saying that the deal shows the U.S. and its allies are plotting to "ignite a war" against the North. He said Pyongyang is ready to match any enemy "nuclear for nuclear, missile for missile." KCNA regularly publishes inflammatory and threatening material directed against the U.S. and South Korea.
North Korea is under heavy United Nations sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs. In April, it conducted a failed rocket launch that it said was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit. Seoul and the U.S. say the launch was a disguised long-range missile test.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.