The United States would shoot down a missile fired by North Korea that poses a threat, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter says.
“If the missile’s threatening, it will be intercepted,” Carter said at his last press conference at the Pentagon.
The US would “not necessarily do so” however if the missile is not threatening because it may be more advantageous to reserve its interceptor inventory and gather intelligence from the flight, he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year speech that the communist country was in the final stages of preparing for a test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). When the test would take place remained unclear.
The pace of North Korea’s military development has increased under Kim, who succeeded his father in 2011 and the Asian nation conducted two nuclear tests in 2016 alone.
Kim declared as early as March last year that North Korea had the technology to fire a long-range rocket that could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Military officials in South Korea and the US doubt that North Korea possesses re-entry technology capability.
North Korea in February launched a rocket that it said would place a satellite in Earth’s orbit. The international community views such activity as a cover for testing long-range rockets that could reach as far as Alaska.
US president-elect Donald Trump said last week that North Korea won’t succeed in reaching the US with a nuclear weapon.