Kim Jong-un has said North Korea is close to testing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
During his New Year’s message, Kim Jong-un claimed that the intercontinental ballistic missiles were in their “last stage” of development.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests in 2016, including its biggest one to date.
This raised fears that Pyongyang has made significant nuclear advances.
Reuters reported a senior US military official as saying that although Pyongyang appears able to put a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a missile, the missile re-entry technology necessary for longer range strikes is still a serious obstacle to its weapons development.
Kim Jong-un, who took control of the secretive state following his father’s death in 2011, said during a TV addresss: “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage.”
The north Krean leader said his country was now a “military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy”.
UN resolutions call for an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
When Pyongyang tested its nuclear bomb in September 2016, estimates varied on how strong it was.
The September test triggered widespread condemnation and further international sanctions against North Korea.