North Korea ready to test ICBM 'any time,' official says

North Korea ready to test ICBM 'any time,' official says
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A senior North Korean official said the isolated country is ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) "at any time, at any place," NBC News reported on Wednesday.

Choe Kang Il, deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry, told NBC News that the expansion of Pyongyang's nuclear program is "defensive in nature."

"Our measures to bolster our nuclear arsenal are all defensive in nature — to defend our sovereignty and to cope with the persistent nuclear blackmail and threats by the United States against our country," he said.

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The North Korean official maintained during the interview that the country will increase its nuclear stockpile as long as the U.S. continues its joint military exercises with South Korea.

"Imagine if our troops went to Canada and Mexico to carry out a nuclear exercise aimed at invading the U.S., what kind of response would you expect from the American people?" he asked.

"As long as the U.S. conducts these joint military exercises, we will increase our nuclear deterrent forces and our preemptive strike forces," Choe added.

The ruling party's primary publication earlier this month claimed that North Korea's nuclear engineers have successfully miniaturized the country's nuclear missiles and made it possible to launch the weapons "anytime and anywhere."

"We have miniaturized, lightened and diversified our nuclear weapons, and they can be loaded on various delivery systems to be launched anytime and anywhere," the newspaper said.

"There is nothing we are afraid of. In the future, phenomenal incidents to strengthen our national defense power will take place multiple times and repeatedly," the publication added.

While Choe described President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE's proposition to develop a missile defense system around North Korea "a provocation," he also said that Pyongyang would be willing to improve its diplomatic relationship with Washington if the U.S. becomes friendlier toward North Korea.

"Our supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, said even though it has been hostile to us in the past, if the U.S. becomes friendlier to us we will develop that relationship," the official told NBC News.