SEOUL, South Korea — Less than a week after Donald J. Trump taunted North Korea over its ballistic missile capabilities, North Korea has said that it could conduct its first test of an intercontinental missile “anytime and anywhere” in a rebuke to the incoming president.
Although North Korea has vowed to develop the ability to attack the United States with nuclear warheads and has tested missiles that can reach throughout the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity, it has never tested a long-range missile that could fly over the Pacific.
In a New Year’s Day speech, Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, said his country had reached a “final stage” in preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. That drew a Twitter post the next day from Mr. Trump that said, “It won’t happen!”
On Sunday, an unidentified spokesman of the North Korean Foreign Ministry told the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, “The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere determined by our supreme leadership.”
The spokesman’s remarks, made public on the KCNA website Monday, were in response to comments last Thursday by Antony J. Blinken, the United States deputy secretary of state, that North Korea had made “a qualitative improvement” in its missile capabilities over the past year. And he swore that Washington and its allies would continue “comprehensive, sustained pressure and sanctions” against the North.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Ashton B. Carter, the departing United States secretary of defense, said that his country would shoot down a North Korean missile “if it were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies.”
It remains unclear how close North Korea has come to building a reliable ICBM. Although it has displayed the road-mobile KN-08, believed to be its first ICBM, during military parades in recent years, it has never flight-tested that system.
In the past year, however, North Korea has boasted of successfully testing key technologies, such as long-range missile engines and heat shields for an ICBM.
Last Tuesday, John Kirby, a spokesman for the State Department, said Washington did not believe that North Korea had achieved its goal of tipping long-range missiles with nuclear warheads, though it continued to “march in that direction.”
North Korea has sought to develop by early 2018 miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the United States, Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat, told the Yonhap news agency of South Korea on Sunday.
Mr. Thae, the No. 2 diplomat in the North Korean Embassy in London, defected to the South last summer.
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