US, North Korea trade warnings over potential ICBM test

North Korea, US trade warnings over potential ICBM test

PYONGYANG, North Korea — With Donald Trump getting ready to take office as president, North Korea is talking about launching a newly perfected intercontinental ballistic missile. Officials in Washington are saying that if Pyongyang launches anything that threatens the territory of the U.S. or its allies, it will be shot down.
North Korea has not explicitly said it will conduct an ICBM test in the immediate future, and it is safe to assume U.S. policy has always been to shoot down any missiles that threaten its territory. But the recent barb trading could suggest Pyongyang and Washington are feeling each other out ahead of President-elect Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20.

A successful ICBM launch would be a major step forward for North Korea and a serious concern to Washington and its allies. Kim Jong Un announced in his annual New Year's address that the country had reached the "final stages" of ICBM development. Trump himself responded with a tweet two days later, saying the possibility of the North developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S. "won't happen!"

Upping the ante, the state's KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Sunday that Pyongyang reserves the right to conduct a test whenever it sees fit.

"The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters of the DPRK," the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Also Sunday, on "Meet the Press," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter called the North's missile and nuclear weapons development a "serious threat." He said the U.S. military would shoot down any missiles launched by the North that appeared to be headed toward American territory or the territory of any U.S. allies.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, the KCNA report suggested Pyongyang is hoping Trump will take a new approach toward relations.

Throughout his tenure, President Barack Obama followed a policy of "strategic patience," which essentially focused on punitive sanctions while ruling out any significant talks or contacts until North Korea made the first move toward denuclearization. The KCNA report slammed U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for saying last week that sanctions must be maintained to keep the pressure on Pyongyang.

"Anyone who wants to deal with the DPRK would be well advised to secure a new way of thinking after having a clear understanding of it," KCNA quoted the foreign ministry official as saying.

© The Associated Press FILE - In this April 24, 2016 file photo, a man walks by as people watch a TV news program showing an image published earlier in the day in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korea's ballistic missile

North Korea says it could launch an intercontinental ballistic missile "at any time," even as Pyongyang appeared to offer Donald Trump an avenue for future talks.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen considerably since leader Kim Jong Un said in his new year's message that the country was close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the US mainland.

In a statement Sunday, a spokesman from North Korea's foreign minister said "the US is wholly to blame" for the development of its missile program.

Speaking to NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter called it a "serious threat" and said the US would shoot down any missile aimed at it or an ally.

China and South Korea on Monday denounced the North Korea missile threat, and warned that a test could lead to further sanctions.

"If North Korea disregards our warning and launches an ICBM, it will face more powerful and thorough sanctions and pressure by the international community," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said.

Few options
Strict international sanctions have so far failed to prevent Pyongyang from developing its nuclear program.
In the Sunday statement, the country's foreign ministry alluded to those sanctions and said US officials "spout rubbish" when they assume Obama's policies will be maintained in future.

"Anyone who wants to deal with (North Korea) would be well advised to secure a new way of thinking after having clear understanding of it," the statement said.

John Delury, assistant professor of international studies at Yonsei University said the statement was "definitely a message to the Trump transition team to say don't go down this dead end (of sanctions)."

Trump talks?
Following Pyongyang's apparent nuke threat in Kim's new year's speech, Trump tweeted that "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US. It won't happen!"
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was later asked on "Good Morning America" what the President-elect intended to do to stop North Korea's nukes. "He's not stated that publicly, and he won't before he's inaugurated," Conway said.

Analysts have said that Trump, through his own pronouncements and the failure of the Obama administration to prevent North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal, is left with few options.

Since six-party talks broke down in 2009, North Korea has claimed to have conducted four successful nuclear tests, strengthening its hand in any future negotiations.

"There's no question signaling is going on," Delury said.

"(The North Koreans) are trying to create some space for Trump to reverse the Obama policy and talk with them in a serious way."

Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation, told CNN last week that despite North Korea's apparent progress on a warhead, it doesn't yet have good enough missile and rocket technology to deliver a nuke.

The US has been working with South Korea to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in that country, but the future of the program is in doubt under a Trump administration.


North Korea official says ICBM launch could come 'anytime'

A North Korean official said Sunday that Pyongyang could launch an ICBM “anytime” and reserves the right to conduct a test wherever it sees fit.

North Korea’s state news agency quoted an anonymous foreign ministry spokesman in a report, adding that the timetable would be determined by the “supreme headquarters of the DPRK.” DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

U.S. officials countered the official’s bluster saying that if Pyongyang launched anything that threatens the territory of the U.S. or its allies, it will be shot down.

The possibility of a successful ICBM launch has been in the back of the minds of the U.S. The launch would be seen as a serious concern to Washington and its allies. Kim Jong Un announced in his annual New Year's address that the country had reached the "final stages" of ICBM development.

President-elect Trump himself responded with a tweet two days later, saying the possibility of the North developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S. "won't happen!"

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the North’s missile and nuclear weapons development was a “serious threat.” He said the U.S. military would shoot down any missiles launched by the North that appeared to be headed toward American territory or the territory of any U.S. allies.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, the KCNA report suggested Pyongyang is hoping Trump will take a new approach toward relations.

Throughout his tenure, President Barack Obama followed a policy of "strategic patience," which essentially focused on punitive sanctions while ruling out any significant talks or contacts until North Korea made the first move toward denuclearization. The KCNA report slammed U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for saying last week that sanctions must be maintained to keep the pressure on Pyongyang.

"Anyone who wants to deal with the DPRK would be well advised to secure a new way of thinking after having a clear understanding of it," KCNA quoted the foreign ministry official as saying.

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