SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea warned Tuesday that the U.S. mainland is within range of its missiles, saying Washington's recent agreement to let Seoul possess missiles capable of hitting all of the North shows the allies are plotting to invade the country.
Seoul announced Sunday it reached a deal with Washington that would allow it to nearly triple the range of its missiles to better cope with North Korean missile and nuclear threats.
On Tuesday, North Korea called the South Korea-U.S. missile deal a "product of another conspiracy of the master and the stooge" to "ignite a war" against the North.
An unidentified spokesman at the powerful National Defense Commission said the North will subsequently bolster its military preparedness and warned it has missiles capable of striking South Korea, Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland.
"We do not hide ... the strategic rocket forces are keeping within the scope of strike not only the bases of the puppet forces and the U.S. imperialist aggression forces' bases in the inviolable land of Korea but also Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
It's unusual for the North to say its missiles are capable of striking the U.S., but North Korea has regularly issued harsh rhetoric against Seoul and Washington.
Still, the North's statement could suggest the country has been working on miniaturizing a nuclear bomb to mount on a long-range rocket, though experts believe the country has yet to acquire such a technology. It could also back up what experts have been suspecting about the range of North Korean long-range rockets.
In April, the country conducted a rocket test that Washington, Seoul and others called a cover for a test of long-range missile technology. North Korea says the rocket, which broke apart shortly after liftoff, was meant to launch a satellite. North Korea conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean studies professor based in Seoul, said the North had no choice but to respond to South Korea's extended missile range but it won't likely launch a provocation as it is waiting for the results of U.S. and South Korean presidential elections.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said Tuesday it has no official comments on the North's statement, but Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said they have no intention of attacking North Korea.
Under the new deal with the U.S., South Korea will be able to possess ballistic missiles with a range of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles). South Korea will continue to limit the payload to 500 kilograms for ballistic missiles with an 800-kilometer range, but it will be able to use heavier payloads for missiles with shorter ranges.
A previous 2001 accord with Washington had barred South Korea from deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) and a payload of more than 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) because of concerns about a regional arms race.
The Korean Peninsula remains officially at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea as deterrence against possible aggression from North Korea.