The John S. McCain, a guided missile destroyer, sails in the waters off the… (U.S. Navy )
SEOUL -- In what is becoming a daily ritual, North Korea has threatened the United States, saying it is prepared to strike with “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons.
The statement from the North Korean military, relayed early Thursday by the Stalinist regime's official news agency, seemed aimed at rebutting assessments by U.S. intelligence that North Korea's nuclear weapons are too large and heavy to be deployed on ballistic missiles.
The U.S. has also said it doesn't believe North Korean missiles are capable of reaching the U.S. mainland or Hawaii.
Though few analysts believe that leader Kim Jong Un actually intends to attack U.S. interests or neighboring South Korea, the blistering rhetoric in recent weeks has jarred nerves and prompted new defensive measures. The United States announced Wednesday that it was sending a mobile missile defense system to Guam to protect the island, a U.S. territory that is home to a Navy base and Andersen Air Force Base.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision to send the missile interceptors to Guam was made because of growing concerns that North Korea had made improvements in the range of its ballistic missiles, possibly giving it the ability to hit the island.
The statement from North Korea's military said it had been authorized to counter U.S. aggression with “powerful practical military counteractions,” including nuclear weapons.
“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward [North Korea] and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means,” the statement said. “The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.”
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Times staff writer David S. Cloud in Washington contributed to this report.