SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea warned on Wednesday (May 31) it was prepared to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at any time, as the United States successfully tested a system designed to intercept them.
The fresh sabre-rattling from Pyongyang appeared to up the stakes as the Pentagon announced on Tuesday it had intercepted a mock-up of an ICBM in a first-of-its-kind test.
The success of the test is a watershed moment for the US military's effort to establish an effective - though limited - ground-based defence against ICBMs as the North ramps up its threats.
"We're prepared to test-fire ICBMs anywhere and anytime on orders from the supreme commander (Kim Jong Un)", the Rodong Sinmun paper said in the article entitled: "No one can stop the nuclear power state, rocketry master in the East".
The paper added: "The United States must know our declaration that we can turn the devils' den into ashes with nuclear weapons is not an empty threat."
Concern among the international community over the North's weapons programme was further raised after North Korea test-fired yet another ballistic missile, the latest in a series of launches that have ratcheted up tensions over Pyongyang's quest to develop weapons capable of hitting the United States.
It was the third missile test by the nuclear-armed regime in less than three weeks, defying UN sanctions warnings and US threats of possible military action.
Early this month, it test-fired what appeared to be its longest-range ballistic missile yet tested in a bid to bring the US mainland within reach.
The North has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental US - something President Donald Trump has vowed "won't happen".
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday's trial was not timed specifically in response to tensions with Pyongyang but that "in a broad sense, North Korea is one of the reasons why we have this capability".
"They continue to conduct test launches, as we saw this weekend, while also using dangerous rhetoric that suggests they would strike the United States homeland," Davis said.