North Korea has warned that it is capable of striking US targets anywhere in the world.

The defiant claim follows the referral of North Korea to the Security Council by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for breaches of non-proliferation accords.

Asked if that meant North Korea had missiles capable of reaching the US, a North Korean official is reported by the AFP news agency to have replied 'I'm not an expert but we have long range missiles and our people have the ability of striking enemies far away.'

Defence analysts have suggested that North Korea has long-range Taepodong-2 missiles which could be capable of reaching parts of the US.

Yesterday the CIA chief George Tenet said North Korea could already have the capacity to target the US west coast with a nuclear capable missile.

The US has so far refused to hold negotiations with Pyongyang over the crisis, saying it must first dismantle its nuclear programme before talks can take place.

However both Russia and China have indicated that they believe the issue can only be resolved through direct talks between the US and North Korea.