SEOUL • North Korea says it has moved closer to test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the potential of hitting the United States mainland.
"US President Donald Trump has said the world will never see North Korea reach the final stage of developing nuclear weapons that could reach the US, but recent strategic weapon tests have proved the country is 'not far away' from testing an ICBM," the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, citing a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
The end of the US' anti-North Korea policies are now a "near reality", the commentary said on Saturday.
The isolated state has accelerated its missile-testing programme in defiance of United Nations sanctions, as leader Kim Jong Un seeks to develop a device that can deliver a nuclear warhead to North America.
The regime already possesses the Taepodong-2, which can reach all parts of the US, but analysts say it has been used for launching satellites into orbit and probably would not be suitable for delivering atomic weapons.
The US recently tested a defence system that it said successfully intercepted and destroyed a mock ICBM. The trial was the first intended to replicate the flight profile of an ICBM that could be deployed by North Korea.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged China to do more to rein in North Korea. KCNA called those remarks "impetuous" and said the country would accelerate the development and diversification of its nuclear force.
In its latest act of provocation, North Korea launched last Thursday a series of short-range missiles that flew about 200km. The projectiles appeared to be designed to attack ships.
The same day, Japan's ruling party urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to consider building missile shelters and carry out more evacuation drills in response to the threat.
A senior US government official also forecast that the North will likely be ready to test-fire an ICBM within the year.
"I would just repeat what the intelligence community says. North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM test in 2017," Mr Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defence for nuclear and missile defence policy, was quoted by the Japanese Kyodo news service as saying.