World

North Korea warns of nuclear strike at US

America could face consequences for attempting regime change in Pyongyang

SEOUL: North Korea has warned of a nuclear strike at the heart of the United States if Americans attempt a regime change in Pyongyang, the North's state news agency said on Tuesday.

"Should the US dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the US with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, quoting a spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry.

The KCNA report, according to Yonhap news agency, said remarks by Mr Mike Pompeo, the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, "have gone over the line, and it has now become clear that the ultimate aim of the Trump administration... is regime change".

In a forum last week, Mr Pompeo alluded to the possibility of a regime change in North Korea by saying that the most important thing the US can do is "separate (nuclear) capacity and someone who might well have (nuclear) intent and break those two apart".

US officials said on Tuesday they have seen increased North Korean activity at a site in the western city of Kusong that could be preparations for another missile test within days, according to a Reuters report.

TEST TODAY?

A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that if the test goes ahead, it would "probably" occur today, which is the 64th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

The date is a public holiday in the nuclear-armed North and celebrated as Victory Day.

The official said the test would be of either an intermediate-range missile or North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) - known as a KN-20 or a Hwasong-14.

Earlier this month, North Korea said it had conducted its first test of an ICBM and mastered the technology needed to deploy a nuclear warhead via the missile.

But the vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff recently said the July 4 test stopped short of showing North Korea's ability to strike the US "with any degree of accuracy".

A new assessment by the Pentagon's Defence Intelligence Agency has concluded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be able to produce a "reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM" programme sometime next year, reported the Washington Post.

North Korea has not yet shown an ability to build a mini-nuclear warhead that could be carried by one of its missiles.

Another of the few remaining technical hurdles is the challenge of atmospheric "reentry" - the ability to design a missile that can pass through the upper atmosphere without damaging the warhead. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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