SEOUL • North Korea warned yesterday that 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 that 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 are prepared to test-fire ICBMs anywhere and any time on orders from the Supreme Commander (Kim Jong Un)," the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an article.
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 US. It was the third missile test by the nuclear-armed regime in less than three weeks, defying warnings of United Nations sanctions and US threats of possible military action.
Early last 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.