North Korea Claims Its Missiles Can Reach U.S. Mainland
North Korea announced Tuesday that it possesses “strategic rocket forces” capable of reaching the American mainland.
The strike zone of North Korean rocket forces includes, "not only the bases of the puppet forces and the U.S. imperialist aggression forces' bases in the inviolable land of Korea, but also Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland," a spokesman for the National Defense Commission said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korea often refers to the South Korean military as “puppet forces,” a reference to its alliance with the United States.
The spokesman also said Pyongyang was ready to match any enemy, "nuclear for nuclear, missile for missile", KCNA reported.
The warnings came two days after Washington and Seoul reached an agreement that would extend the range of South Korean ballistic missiles to include the northern peninsula of North Korea.
"It could be a bluff, as there is no evidence that North Korea has succeeded in tests of a missile with a range long enough to hit the US mainland," said Yun Duk-Min, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy, according to AFP.
"It might also be aimed at boosting military morale and rallying support behind (new leader) Kim Jong-Un,” he added.
In April, the North carried out a failed rocket launch in what it claimed was a bid to put a satellite into orbit.
American and South Korean officials, as well as the United Nations Security Council, condemned the act as a cover for developing and testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
In 1998, a rocket called the Taepodong-1 flew over Japan and crashed into the Pacific. In 2006, the North launched the Taepodong-2, which exploded seconds after liftoff. It launched another long-range rocket, the Unha-2, in 2009. While its first two stages appeared to have worked, American and South Korean officials said the third stage never separated.
In April, North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket disintegrated in midair shortly after takeoff.
The North claimed, however, to have successfully placed satellites into orbit in 1998 and 2009 and conducted two nuclear tests, although it remains unclear whether it can make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop a missile, The New York Times reported.
Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in early 2011 that North Korea was within five years of being able to strike the continental United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The two Koreas signed an armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean war, though a peace treaty was never signed and technically, the two countries remain in a state of war.