By Chang Jae-soon
WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Sunday it is fully capable of defending against North Korean missiles after the communist nation said it can test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time from any place.
The North's Foreign Ministry issued the warning earlier Sunday, doubling down on a threat made by leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year's Day address that the regime has reached the final stage of preparation to test-fire an ICBM apparently capable of reaching the U.S.
"The United States is capable of defending against a North Korean ballistic missile attack. Our recent success in returning to test the upgraded version of the ground-based interceptor will keep us on a good trajectory to improve our defensive capability against limited ballistic missile threats, such as that from North Korea," said Justin Higgins, press office director at the State Department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau.
"We are continuing to upgrade our ballistic missile defense capability," he said.
Higgins also said the U.S. is firmly committed to defending its allies, including by "utilizing appropriate elements of the full spectrum of U.S. extended deterrence capabilities."
The official also urged the North to refrain from provocative actions, make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments, and return to serious talks.
"We have pursued a comprehensive, sustained pressure campaign -- of which sanctions are a key part. The goals of this campaign are to raise the cost to North Korea for violating its international obligations and commitments and to degrade North Korea's ability to fund its unlawful activities," he said.
"In targeting the Kim regime's reputation and sources of revenue, we continue to steadily tighten sanctions in an effort to compel the regime to return to credible negotiations on denuclearization," the official said.
U.N. resolutions ban the North from launches using ballistic missile technology, he said.
The official also called on other countries to use every available channel and means of influence to make clear to the North and its enablers that launches using ballistic missile technology, or efforts to advance North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities, are unacceptable.
"We further call on all states to take steps to show there are consequences to the DPRK's unlawful conduct," he said.