WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The United States is confident it can fully deter incoming North Korean missiles despite the increased volume of threats from Pyongyang about a future launch.
U.S. State Department spokesman Justin Higgins told Yonhap news agency Sunday the "United States is capable of defending against a North Korean ballistic missile attack."
"Our recent success in returning to test the upgraded version of the ground-based interceptor will keep us on a good trajectory to improve our defensive capability against limited ballistic missile threats, such as that from North Korea," Higgins said. "We are continuing to upgrade our ballistic missile defense capability."
Higgins said North Korea should return to negotiations while meeting its international obligations to neither test ballistic missiles nor conduct nuclear tests, according to the report.
The spokesman also voiced support for sanctions.
"In targeting the Kim regime's reputation and sources of revenue, we continue to steadily tighten sanctions in an effort to compel the regime to return to credible negotiations on denuclearization," Higgins said.
On Sunday North Korea reiterated an earlier statement Kim Jong Un made during his New Year's speech, warning that the country had reached the last stage of preparing a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that may be capable of targeting the U.S. mainland.
In Seoul, military officials say they cannot rule out the possibility Pyongyang could launch either the KN-08 or the KN-14 ballistic missiles, adding that they are "closely monitoring the situation," local news service Newsis reported.
Both the KN-08 and KN-14 are road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles. The KN-08 has a range of 7,500 miles, and the KN-14 is estimated to have a range between 5,600 and 6,200 miles, according to the report.
Analysts believe the North's test-launches of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the Musudan, were proxy tests to verify ICBM launch capability.