North Korea Threatens to Strike U.S. With 'Powerful Nuclear Hammer'

North Korea parades missile
A file photo of a North Korean navy truck carrying a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017. North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S. in response to the CIA director's comments on regime change in the country. Damir Sagolj/File Photo/Reuters

The North Korean regime has responded to CIA Director Mike Pompeo's comments on regime change in Pyongyang.

A foreign ministry spokesman was quoted in the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) threatening a nuclear strike to "the heart of the U.S." should the American secret service attempt to remove Kim Jong Un from power.

"Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time," the spokesman said, as the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado last Thursday, Pompeo called Kim Jong Un's leadership the "most dangerous" element to the North Korean threat. While Pompeo avoided explicitly declaring Washington's view over regime change, he hinted that the administration was looking into "separate capacity and someone who might well have intent and break those two apart", before adding that "the North Korea people — I'm sure are lovely people — and would love to see him go as well."

The fiery response from North Korea comes amid rumors of a new nuclear test scheduled for this week. According to a U.S. defense official quoted by CNN, ballistic missile launching equipment was detected arriving in Kusong, North Korea, last Friday. Kusong was the site of previous missile test launches, and the next one could coincide with the anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Day on Thursday, which Pyongyang celebrates as "Victory Day."

U.S. experts believe that in the latest missile test on July 4, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the potential of reaching Alaska but, for all its threats, top U.S. military officials doubt Pyongyang can follow through with military action.

Vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva said the July 4 test stopped short of showing North Korea had "the capacity to strike the United States with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success," as Reuters reported on July 18.

On Sunday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford said North Korea is capable of launching a "limited" attack but that the U.S., Japan and South Korea have the military capacity to defend themselves.

South Korea however is seeking a revision of missiles guidelines stipulated with the U.S. in a bid to double its firepower in the latest move to counter the rising threat from the North. The latest deal revision, in 2012, allowed Seoul to increase the maximum allowable missile range to 800km from the previous limit of 300km, and to load up to 500kg of warheads on the 800km-range missiles. According to reports in the South Korean press, President Moon Jae-in discussed with President Donald Trump doubling the weight limit to 1 ton of warheads when they met at the end of June.

President Moon is also pursuing a diplomatic route to contain the threat from North Korea, inviting its northern neighbor for talks to ease border tensions. Pyongyang has yet to reply to the invitation, which will expire on Thursday.