The US Defence Secretary has said North Korean missiles pose a serious threat and will be shot down if they approach American territory.
Ash Carter was speaking after the secretive country accused the United States of having a ‘hostile policy’ towards North Korea.
Mr Carter, who will be leaving office in less than a fortnight, told NBC’s Meet the Press the US would be prepared to shoot down a missile “..if it were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies.”
North Korea’s news agency KCNA had earlier said: “The US is wholly to blame for pushing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to have developed (an) ICBM as it has desperately resorted to anachronistic policy hostile toward the DPRK for decades to encroach upon its sovereignty and vital rights.
“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.”
North Korea has claimed it is ready to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at any time and at any location.
It follows comments made by the country’s leader Kim Jong-Un on New Year’s Day in which he indicated that a launch could be close.
Over the past year North Korea has carried out a series of missile launches and has tested two nuclear weapons, most recently in September 2016.
American experts say this has led to a “qualitative” improvement in the country’s nuclear and missile capabilities.
If North Korea is able to put the technologies together it could produce a weapon which could threaten Hawaii or the US west coast.
However, while a test launch may be close it is likely to take North Korea years to perfect a weapon.
ICBMs can travel up to 10,000km (6,200 miles). The west coast of the United States is around 9,000km (5,500 miles) from North Korea.