North says it can test first ICBM at ‘any time’

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North says it can test first ICBM at ‘any time’

North Korea threatened to conduct its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test “any time” its leader Kim Jong-un wishes, saying “nothing can ever” block its weapons development program.

The threat, carried out by the state-run Rodong Sinmun Saturday, reiterated Kim’s New Year’s address on Jan. 1, in which he said the regime was in the “final stages” of developing the missile. “We believe without a doubt that our ICBM test will succeed,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “Nobody can deny the fact that we will test-fire an ICBM not long from now.”

The successful test will mark an “extremely crucial and historic turning-point” for the United States to announce the “complete abolishment” of its anti-North Korea policy, the newspaper continued.

Blasting Washington’s “antagonistic” ways, Pyongyang said it was historically proven that the United States “could not even imagine” engaging in a war with countries that possess nuclear bombs and ICBMs. “The distance between our country and New York is about 10,400 kilometers [6,462 miles],” said the Rodong Sinmun. “For us, that’s not far away. Even if America was farther, it still would entirely be within our target range.”

A South Korean intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, admitted detecting several hints that North Korea was recently developing multi-stage rockets that could be used for an ICBM, saying the signs mostly originated from Pyongyang or Tongchang-ri in North Pyongan Province, home to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. The source said it also appeared Kim Jong-un recently gifted senior scientists in the ICBM development program with a house and car as rewards.

On how far the North actually has come with its ICBM technology, the intelligence official said Pyongyang lately reached out to retired Russian scientists to master the re-entry method, a critical element of an ICBM that can protect a nuclear warhead from extreme heat and other elements when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere after soaring through space.

Local authorities had said North Korea tested the technology last month when it test-fired the Hwasong-12 medium-range ballistic missile.

In another editorial that ran Saturday in the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea called on China to “clearly distinguish between enemy and ally,” in what appeared to be a show of frustration for Beijing’s decision to side with the international community’s sanctioning of North Korea.

Without specifically mentioning China, the North said its general public “passionately supported and cheered” that “neighboring country” when it developed an atomic bomb and tested it in the Gobi.

At one point, the editorial said if the country ignored that shared friendly history, North Korea will develop weapons more powerful than a nuclear bomb “without hesitance.”

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