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It’s unusual for the North to say its missiles are capable of striking the U.S., but Pyongyang often has threatened to attack South Korea and the U.S. in times of tension.

It often does not follow through, but its deadly 2010 artillery strikes on a South Korean island came after it issued a threat to retaliate against South Korean military drills.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean studies professor based in Seoul, said that in the latest case, the North had no choice but to respond to South Korea’s extended missile range, but is unlikely to launch a provocation, as it is waiting for the results of U.S. and South Korean presidential elections.

Under the new deal with the U.S., South Korea will be able to possess ballistic missiles with a range of up to 500 miles. South Korea will continue to limit the payload to 1,100 pounds for ballistic missiles with an 500-mile range, but it will be able to use heavier payloads for missiles with shorter ranges.

A previous 2001 accord with Washington had barred South Korea from deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 186 miles and a payload of more than 1,100 pounds because of concerns about a regional arms race.

The Korean Peninsula remains officially at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as deterrence against possible aggression from North Korea.