North Korea on Sunday (8 January) announced that it could test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from "anywhere" and at "anytime" chosen by its leader Kim Jong-un. The communist country added that its weapons development was a result of the adverse US policy.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson as saying "The U.S. is wholly to blame for pushing [North Korea] to have developed an ICBM as it has desperately resorted to anachronistic policy hostile toward [North Korea] for decades to encroach upon its sovereignty and vital rights."

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

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in an interview to NBC News on Sunday said that the North's nuclear capabilities and missile defence programs posed a serious threat to the US. He added saying "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."

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles reportedly have a minimum range of 5,500km (3,400 miles) and some could be designed to travel 10,000km (6,200 miles).

According to experts, Pyongyang has been actively testing rocket engines and heat shields for an ICBM and developing technology to guide a missile after re-entry into the atmosphere following a lift off. The experts also suggest that while the East Asian country is close to a test, it could take many years to fully perfect the weapon.

South Korean defence ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun on Monday, (9 January) said that the statement by the North was provocative.

North Korea ballistic missile launch
A fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force is pictured in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency [representational image] KCNA via Reuters