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President-elect Trump: It won't happen

North Korea says it is developing missile capable of hitting the US

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter again on Monday evening to promise North Korea would not develop a nuclear missile capable of reaching US territory.

His comments come a day after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, appeared to try to put pressure on Mr Trump by announcing his country is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

"North Korea just stated it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," Mr Trump tweeted.

"It won't happen!"

Although Washington has repeatedly vowed it would never accept North Korea as a nuclear state, Mr Trump has not previously clearly stated his policy on the isolated Stalinist state.

The Republican billionaire has already upended precedent by routinely taking to Twitter to lambast critics and issue statements - even about serious national security issues - sending analysts scrambling to divine what they may mean for US policy once he takes office on Jan 20.

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He launched a solo bid to restart the Cold War arms race last month, tweeting that the US must "greatly strengthen and expand" its nuclear capabilities.

He has also angered China by tweeting accusations of military expansionism and currency manipulation.

But he will need Beijing, Pyongyang's closest ally, to deal with North Korea's mounting confrontation.

However, he appeared to complicate that with his latest criticism on Monday following his vow about North Korea.

"China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea," he tweeted.

"Nice!"

In a 30-minute televised New Year's speech on Sunday, Mr Kim said Pyongyang had "soared as a nuclear power," adding it is now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy."

Although he did not make a specific reference to the incoming Trump administration, he called on Washington to make a "resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy."

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an ICBM.

However, North Korea carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year in pursuit of its oft-stated goal - developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US with a nuclear warhead.

Mr Thae Yong Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South last August, has said Mr Kim was planning a "prime time" nuclear weapons push this year to take advantage of leadership transitions in Washington and Seoul. - AFP

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