Wires

UPDATE 1-North Korea says its rockets can hit U.S. mainland

(Adds U.S. State Department comment, paragraphs 7-8)

SEOUL, Oct 9 (Reuters) - North Korea has rockets that canhit the U.S. mainland, it said on Tuesday, two days after SouthKorea struck a deal with the United States to extend the rangeof 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 NorthKorea's nuclear weapons programme.

Reclusive North Korea is believed to be developing along-range missile with a range of 6,700 km (4,160) miles) ormore aimed at hitting the United States, but two recent rockettests failed.

Its neighbours fear North Korea 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 country 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.

The U.S. State Department declined to discuss whether itbelieved North Korea' s new claims on missile range, saying thiswas an intelligence issue. But it noted that No rth Korea isbound by U.N. Security Council resolutions to suspend allactivities related to ballistic missile programs.

"Certainly rather than bragging about its missilecapability, they ought to be feeding their own people," StateDepartment spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, ad ding t hat"threats or provocations" by North Kor ea wou ld only undermineits efforts to seek more engagement with the internationalcommunity.

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 North Korea.

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 SouthKorea in defence of its ally against North Korea.

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; Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn inWashington; Editing by Nick Macfie and Will Dunham)

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

Keywords: KOREA NORTH/