North Korea to launch ICBM 'anytime, anywhere'; US says will shoot it down

'We only would shoot them down ... if it was threatening, that is if it were coming toward our territory'

North Korean ballistic missile, suspected to be Musudan, crashes after liftoff
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides on the spot the underwater test-fire of strategic submarine ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 24, 2016 Reuters

North Korea has said it will launch an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) "anytime and anywhere" in response to the rising nuclear threat from the United States. An unnamed foreign ministry spokesman said Pyongyang will carry out the test at a time determined by the supreme headquarters of the DPRK. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on January that his country was close to test-launching an ICBM.

"The U.S. is wholly to blame for pushing the DPRK to have developed ICBM as it has desperately resorted to anachronistic policy hostile toward the DPRK for decades to encroach upon its sovereignty and vital rights," official news agency KCNA quoted the spokesman as saying.

"Anyone who wants to deal with the DPRK would be well advised to secure a new way of thinking after having clear understanding of it," the spokesman added.

The US said last week North Korea made "qualitative" improvement in its nuclear and missile warfare capabilities. US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests Pyongyang conducted last year has made it all the more necessary to bring Kim Jong Un back to disarmament talks.

Pyongyang spokesman, however, termed the US statement was rubbish. "A U.S. deputy secretary of State spouted rubbish on January 5 that threat from north Korea has reached an extreme pitch .." The official news agency said a change of guard at the White House will not change the US policy towards North Korea and that "sanctions aimed at pressurizing north Korea would as ever continue no matter what administration may establish in the U.S."

Reacting to reports that the North Korean nuclear and missile buildup had reached a dangerous level, President-elect Donald Trump said last week. "It won't happen!"

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said the US would shoot down any North Korean missile coming its way, adding that Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capabilities and ballistic missile defence programs constituted a "serious threat" to the country.

"We only would shoot them down ... if it was threatening, that is if it were coming toward our territory or the territory of our friends and allies," Carter said on NBC's "Meet the Press" programme on Sunday.

North Korea conducted 24 missile tests and two nuclear tests last year. However, experts say it will take Pyongyang several years to perfect the technology and use it in a war. The North Korean ICBM aims to target the US shores with a targeted reach of 9,000 km.