Growing fears that North Korea actually has the technology to launch nuclear missiles

THE United States has delayed testing one of its own intercontinental ballistic missiles as some analysts say they believe North Korea can launch nuclear warheads.

In this undated photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, a South Korean sea-to-land cruise missile is fired from a submarine during a drill. A Pentagon official said Saturday that it has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test that had been planned for next week amid mounting tensions with North Korea. (South Korea Defense Ministry/Associated Press)

A senior defence official has said the Pentagon delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test in order not to inflame already flash-point tensions with the rogue state.

Scheduled to be launched this week from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the official said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test until sometime next month.

The test was not connected to the ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that have been going on in that region and have stoked North Korean anger and fueled an escalation in threatening actions and rhetoric.

North Korea's military warned earlier this week that it was authorized to attack the U.S. using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons.

However, North Korea is generally regarded d as being years away from perfecting the technology to back up its bold threats of a pre-emptive strike on the United States.

But a recent string of successful tests has introduced a strong measure of doubt.

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