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U.S.: N. Korean test could target Guam

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

PYONGYANG — Hinting at a missile launch, North Korea delivered a fresh round of war rhetoric on Thursday with claims it has “powerful striking means” on standby.

The United States and South Korea, meanwhile, speculated that the rogue nation is preparing to test-fire a missile designed to be capable of reaching Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

The latest rhetoric was made as new U.S. intelligence was revealed showing that North Korea is probably capable of arming a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.

On the streets of Pyongyang, North Koreans shifted into party mode as they celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un's appointment to the country's top party post — one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

Although there is calm in Pyongyang, there was condemnation in London, where foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations slammed North Korea for “aggressive rhetoric.” North Korea probably has advanced its nuclear know-how to the point where it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, but the weapon wouldn't be very reliable, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded. The agency's assessment was revealed at a public hearing Thursday in Washington.

In his first public comments since North Korea escalated its rhetoric, President Obama urged the North to end its nuclear threats, saying it is time for the isolated nation “to end the belligerent approach.”

“Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula,” Obama added, speaking from the Oval Office alongside United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In the latest threat from Pyongyang, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a nonmilitary agency that deals with relations with South Korea, said “striking means” have been “put on standby for a launch and the coordinates of targets put into the warheads.” It didn't clarify, but the language suggested a missile.

The statement was the latest in a torrent of warlike threats seen outside Pyongyang as an effort to raise fears and pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their North Korea policies, and to show the North Korean people that their young leader is strong enough to stand up to powerful foes.

A launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity, and mark a major escalation in Pyongyang's standoff with neighboring nations.

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