SEOUL — North Korea has warned that the U.S. mainland is within range of its missiles, and said that Washington’s recent agreement to let Seoul possess missiles capable of hitting all of the North shows the allies are plotting to invade the country.
South Korea announced Sunday that it reached a deal with Washington that would allow it to nearly triple the range of its missiles to better cope with North Korean missile and nuclear threats.
On Tuesday, North Korea called the deal a “product of another conspiracy of the master and the stooge” to “ignite a war” against the North.
In a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified spokesman at the National Defense Commission said the North will bolster its military preparedness.
“We do not hide – the strategic rocket forces are keeping within the scope of strike not only the bases of the puppet forces and the U.S. imperialist aggression forces’ bases in the inviolable land of Korea but also Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland,” the spokesman said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news conference that North Korea would achieve nothing through threats and provocations. She declined to say whether the continental U.S. is within the North’s missile range.
She said South Korea’s missile ranges and capabilities have not changed since 2001, while North has been clearly working on its own. She said the recent agreement with the South on missiles is defensive in nature.
North Korean long-range rockets are believed to have a range of up to about 4,160 miles, putting parts of Alaska within reach, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
But the North’s spotty record in test launches raises doubts about whether it is truly capable of an attack.
That also alarmed Washington because about 50,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Japan and their bases could be within the North’s range. Tokyo and Washington have since intensified their ballistic missile defenses.
But the North’s most recent rocket launch, in April, ended in humiliating failure shortly after liftoff. North Korea said it was trying to launch a satellite with that launch, but the U.S. and other countries said it was actually a test of long-range missile technology.
The failure suggests that Pyongyang has yet to master the technology it needs to control multistage rockets – a key capability if it is to threaten the U.S. with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Although North Korea is believed to have a small nuclear arsenal, experts do not believe it has mastered the miniaturization technology required to mount a nuclear weapon on a long-range rocket.