Ratcheting up tensions on the Korean peninsula, North Korea has warned of an impending atomic war. The country's deputy UN ambassador Kim In-ryong said the situation "has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment"

The latest threat has come at a time when top US military think tanks believe the chances of a pre-emptive US strike on North Korea are higher than ever before.

The envoy said Pyongyang has the right to defend itself in the light of an alleged US plan to exterminate its leadership. The US plans to stage a "secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership, he said at the UN General Assembly's disarmament committee on Monday.

He also added that the Us subjects Pyongyang to "such an extreme and direct nuclear threat". He said North Korea is the only country has had to live with direct threat of a nuclear attack since the 1970s. The envoy added, however, that his country now has the capability to target the entire US mainland.

Meanwhile, a top US general said the US could pre-emptively strike North Korea if it aims nuclearized intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) at the US mainland. Jack Keane, who was the Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, was speaking to the Voice of America.

North Korea has completed its "state nuclear force and thus became the full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges, including the atomic bomb, H-bomb and intercontinental ballistic rockets," the ambassador added.

"The entire US mainland is within our firing range and if the US dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe, he said.

The tense standoff between Pyongyang and the US has kept the Korean peninsula on tenterhook for most part of the year. The world bemusingly saw North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's fiery rhetoric being matched by angry retorts by US President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump warns North Korea of devastating consequences if US uses military option

On Sunday, Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the dip0lomatic efforts to defuse tension would continue "until the first bomb drops".

Pyongyang has, however, refused to be stopped in the tracks as it develops cutting edge weapons technology."Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the US is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances," the ambassador said.