The U.S. has a "limited capability to defend" its homeland from a small number of “simple,” intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by countries like North Korea or Iran, the Pentagon’s weapons testing office said in its latest annual report.
The report said that the U.S. maintains ground-based interceptors based in Alaska and California, but they cannot be counted on with any degree of certainty due to “lack of ground tests,” according to Bloomberg.
Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the missile defense agency, responded to the report and told Bloomberg he has a “high confidence” in the system in place.
“I am very confident in the systems and procedures [the U.S. Northern Command] will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it toward our territory,” he said.
With Donald Trump getting ready to take office as president, North Korea is talking about launching a newly perfected intercontinental ballistic missile.
North Korea has not explicitly said it will conduct an ICBM test in the immediate future, and it is safe to assume U.S. policy has always been to shoot down any missiles that threaten its territory.
But the recent barb trading could suggest Pyongyang and Washington are feeling each other out ahead of President-elect Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20.
A successful ICBM launch would be a major step forward for North Korea and a serious concern to Washington and its allies.
Kim Jong Un announced in his annual New Year's address that the country had reached the "final stages" of ICBM development. Trump himself responded with a tweet two days later, saying the possibility of the North developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S. "won't happen!"
Upping the ante, the state's KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Sunday that Pyongyang reserves the right to conduct a test whenever it sees fit.
"The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters of the DPRK," the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.