Asia & Pacific

People watch a television news broadcast at a railway station in Seoul on January 1, 2017 showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's New Year's speech
Kim Jong-Un said North Korea is in the 'final stages' of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile

The United States on Sunday sharply condemned a North Korean plan to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile and warned Pyongyang against "provocative actions." 

The toughly worded US statement called on "all states" to show the North that any unlawful actions would have "consequences." 

It was issued by the Pentagon at a sensitive time -- just weeks before President Barack Obama is due to hand power over to his successor, Donald Trump.  

North Korea is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, leader Kim Jong-Un said hours earlier, claiming the country had significantly bolstered its nuclear deterrent in 2016.

"We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in a 30-minute televised New Year's speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.

Pyongyang had "soared as a nuclear power", he said, adding it was now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy."

The country carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in 2016 in pursuit of its oft-stated goal of developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

"We have seen marvellous feats for bolstering our military power including the fact that our preparations for test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile is in the final stages," Kim added.

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

But all agree Pyongyang has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father, Kim Jong-Il who died in December 2011.

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