(The Independent newspaper ) North Korea says it will conduct its next nuclear missile test “anytime and anywhere” it wants as Kim Jong-un’s regime tries to complete its weapons programme by the end of the year.

Mr Kim said in his annual New Year’s address that the country had reached the “final stages” of the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has called the North’s programme a “serious threat”.

The North’s KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Sunday that Pyongyang reserves the right to conduct a test whenever it sees fit.

“The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters of the DPRK,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying.

Mr Carter said the US military would shoot down any missiles launched by the North that appeared to be headed toward American territory or the territory of any US allies.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, the KCNA report suggested Pyongyang is hoping Donald Trump will take a new approach toward relations.

In a tweet, the President-elect has said the possibility of the North developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the US “won’t happen!”

Throughout his tenure, President Barack Obama followed a policy of “strategic patience,” which essentially focused on punitive sanctions while ruling out any significant talks or contacts until North Korea made the first move toward denuclearisation.

The KCNA report slammed US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for saying last week that sanctions must be maintained to keep the pressure on Pyongyang.

“Anyone who wants to deal with the DPRK would be well advised to secure a new way of thinking after having a clear understanding of it,” KCNA quoted the foreign ministry official as saying.

At the end of last year the highest-ranking defector from the North, former deputy London ambassador Thae Yong-ho, said Mr Kim will pursue his nuclear programme “at all costs” and will not relinquish its weapons “even if the country is offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion in return”

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