Wires

Isolated North Korea says its rockets can hit U.S. mainland

SEOUL, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Isolated North Korea has rocketsthat can hit the U.S. mainland, it said on Tuesday, two daysafter South Korea struck a deal with the United States to extendthe range of its ballistic missiles.

North and South Korea have been technically at war sincetheir 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, andregional powers have for years been trying to rein in theNorth's nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea is believed to be developing a long-rangemissile with a range of 6,700 km (4,160) miles) or more aimed athitting the United States, but two recent rocket tests bothfailed.

Its neighbours fear the North is using rocket launches toperfect technology to build a missile capable of delivering anuclear warhead to the United States.

North Korea's National Defence Commission said in astatement that the North was prepared to counter any U.S.military threats, its KCNA news agency said.

"We do not hide (the fact) that the revolutionary armedforces ... including the strategic rocket forces are keepingwithin the scope of strike not only the bases of the puppetforces and the U.S. imperialist aggression forces' bases in theinviolable land of Korea, but also Japan, Guam and the U.S.mainland," KCNA said.

South Korea on Sunday unveiled an agreement with the UnitedStates that extends the range of its ballistic missiles by morethan twice its current limit to 800 km (497 miles) as adeterrent against the North.

North Korea is under heavy U.N. sanctions that have cut offits previously lucrative arms trade and further isolated thestate after its failed 2009 missile test drew sharp rebukes,even from its one major ally, China.

The United States has denied it has any intention to strikeNorth Korea. It has more than 20,000 troops stationed in theSouth in defence of its ally against the North.

In April, under its new leader Kim Jong-un, North Koreaagain launched a rocket that flew just a few minutes covering alittle over 100 km (60 miles) before blowing up over the seabetween South Korea and China.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

((jack.kim@thomsonreuters.com)(+822 3704 5645))

Keywords: KOREA NORTH/