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South Korean soldiers stand guard in fog as a North Korean soldier (center far) stands at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarsied zone dividing North and South Koreas, yesterday.
SEOUL: North Korea warned yesterday that the US mainland was “well within” the range of its nuclear weapons, as Pyongyang continued to ramp up the bellicose rhetoric after its recent nuclear test.
In an article posted on the official Uriminzokkiri website, a member of the Korean National Peace Committee — a propaganda body — said the North was now a “fully-independent rocket and nuclear weapons state”.
“The US should be acutely aware that its mainland is well within the range of our strategic rockets and nuclear weapons,” the signed commentary said.
North Korea made a similar claim in October last year, saying it possessed rockets capable of striking the continental US.
That was largely dismissed as bluster, but that was before Pyongyang conducted a successful long-range rocket launch in December, followed by its third nuclear test on February 12.
Although experts believe the North has a long way to go to developing a dependable inter-continental ballistic missile, the December launch was a step in the right direction.
And this month’s nuclear test fuelled concerns that North Korea is refining the technical ability to place a miniaturised nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.
After analysing debris from the rocket launch in December, the South Korean military estimated its possible range at around 10,000km (6,200 miles), bringing in the west coast of the US.
So Se Pyong, North Korea’s Ambassador in Geneva, told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that the US was contributing to an “unpredictable” situation on the divided Korean peninsula and abusing its power in the UN Security Council to impose its “hostile policy” against Pyongyang.
North Korea is facing further UN sanctions for its underground nuclear test explosion two weeks ago, its biggest and most powerful to date which drew warnings from Washington and international condemnation. A week ago, North Korea’s delegation threatened South Korea with “final destruction” during a heated debate at the talks.
South Korea’s disarmament Ambassador Kwon Haeryong urged the North to “abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace”.