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U.S. watching N. Korea very closely: State Department

All Headlines 05:25 January 05, 2017

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- The United States takes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's rhetoric on intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities seriously and is keeping a close watch on the communist nation, the State Department said Wednesday.

"We are forced by his actions in the past to take his rhetoric seriously and we do. We can discuss intelligence issues, one way or the other, in terms of what assessment we might make of where he is on this particular issue. But obviously, it's something that we're watching very closely," State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing.

Kim said in his New Year's Day address that the communist nation has reached the final stage of preparations to test-fire an ICBM. It was widely seen as a thinly veiled threat that Pyongyang is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S.

On Tuesday, Kirby downplayed the North's capabilities, saying the U.S. does not believe Pyongyang "has the capability to tip one of these (missiles) with a nuclear warhead."

The threat sparked security concerns in the U.S., even prompting U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to send a tweet: "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!"

jschang@yna.co.kr
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