N Korea claims its missiles can reach US

2012-10-09 07:56
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Seoul - North Korea said on Tuesday it possessed rockets capable of striking the US mainland, as it slammed a new US-South Korean deal to extend the range of the South's missile systems.

A National Defence Commission spokesperson cited by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also said Pyongyang would retaliate "in kind" to any US or South Korean nuclear or missile attack.

The warnings came two days after South Korea announced an agreement with the United States to almost triple the range of its missiles to cover the whole of North Korea.

The spokesperson said the North's military, including "strategic rocket forces", had a "scope of strike" that not only covered US and South Korean bases in South Korea, "but also Japan, Guam and the US mainland".

South Korean analysts largely dismissed the claim as military bluster, saying there was no evidence the North had obtained a working inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) since a failed rocket launch in April.

North Korea is known to have an ICBM in development - the Taepodong-2 - but it has never been tested successfully.

Mock-ups

Pyongyang said April's failed rocket launch was a bid to put a satellite into orbit.

The United States and United Nations insisted it was a disguised ballistic missile test using a three-stage variant of the Taepodong-2.

Days after April's failure, North Korea raised eyebrows by displaying what appeared to be a new set of ICBMs at a military parade to mark the 100th birthday of the North's late founder Kim Il-Sung.

But Western military analysts and UN sanctions experts concluded that the display models were simply mock-ups.

"There is no evidence that North Korea has succeeded in tests of a missile with a range long enough to hit the US mainland," said Yun Duk-Min, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

Yun suggested the claim was made to strengthen the North's reaction to the new US-South Korea missile deal and boost military morale under new leader Kim Jong-Un.

'Conspiracy of the master'


The new agreement with the United States - announced on Sunday - allows the South to deploy missiles with a range of 800km, up from the current limit of 300km.

The extension not only brings the whole of North Korea within reach of Seoul's rockets, but also parts of China and Japan.

The US stations 28 500 troops in South Korea and guarantees a nuclear "umbrella" in case of any atomic attack. In return, Seoul accepts limits on its missile capabilities.

The North's National Defence Commission spokesperson said the missile deal was "another conspiracy of the master and the stooge to push the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the extreme... and ignite a war".

He also stressed the desire of the North Korean army and people to "feel the real taste of a war".

Baek Seung-Joo, at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses, said Sunday's missile announcement had clearly come as a "shock" to Pyongyang.

"It means the South would be able to mount pre-emptive, surgical strikes on any of the nine North Korean missile bases if necessary."

Read more on:    kim jong-un  |  south korea  |  north korea  |  nuclear  |  north korea nuclear programme
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