WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama assured Americans in a televised interview Monday that the United States was fully prepared for a potential North Korean missile launch toward US territory. This administration and our military is fully prepared for any contingencies, Obama told CBS when asked about the possibility that North Korea could fire a missile toward Hawaii on or about July 4, the US Independence Day. Asked if that meant Washington was warning of a military response, Obama answered: No. Its just we are prepared for any contingencies. I dont want to speculate on hypotheticals, he said. But I do want to give assurances to the American people that the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted in terms of what might happen. North Korea, meanwhile, said Monday it was a proud nuclear power and would hit back if it considered itself to be under attack. Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling communist party, said the US should take a correct look at who it is dealing with. It is a great mistake for the US to think it will not be hurt if it ignores this, the paper warned. The exchange came after a Gallup poll released Thursday suggested that 51 percent of Americans believe North Korea poses the greatest direct threat to US security, ahead of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said last week that the US military has beefed up its Defences in Hawaii over fears Pyongyang may launch a missile at the Pacific island chain. I would just say I think we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory, Gates said. He said he had approved the deployment to Hawaii of Theatre High Altitude Area Defence missile Defences in case of a North Korean launch. Ground-based Defences in the state of Alaska are also ready, Gates said. Meanwhile, a US Navy destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, has been tracking a North Korean ship that has been previously linked to illicit missile-related cargo, according to US Defence officials. South Koreas YTN television news channel, citing an unnamed intelligence source, said the United States suspects that the 2,000-tonne Kang Nam 1 is carrying missiles or related parts, and is heading for Myanmar via Singapore. It is the first vessel to be monitored under a United Nations resolution passed a week ago that bans shipments of arms and nuclear or missile technology to and from North Korea. The measure calls for inspections of ships if there are reasonable grounds that a vessel may be carrying illicit cargo but rules out the use of military force to back up the searches. In the interview, Obama said international consensus against Pyongyang is strong after its second nuclear test on May 25, which followed what Washington said was a long-range missile test in April disguised as a space shot. Pyongyang said the April 5 launch put a satellite into orbit, but the US military said the payload, along with the rest of the missile, splashed into the Pacific Ocean. More broadly, I think the international community has spoken, Obama said, noting that the UN Security Council has agreed to tighter cargo inspections, a stricter arms embargo and new targeted financial curbs to choke off revenue for the Norths nuclear and missile sectors. But the US president also pointed out that North Korea still had a path towards rejoining the international community. And we hope they take that path, he said. Obama last Tuesday called Pyongyang a grave threat and vowed to defend South Korea after talks in Washington with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak. The North in turn accused Obama and Lee of trying to ignite a nuclear war. The US-touted provision of 'extended deterrence, including a nuclear umbrella (for South Korea) is nothing but 'a nuclear war plan, the Norths state-run weekly Tongil Sinbo said.