North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has warned the United States his country’s nuclear forces are now “completed”, adding that the nuclear launch button was always within easy reach.
While he remained defiant in his confrontation with Donald Trump, he struck a more conciliatory note on relations with South Korea, offering to start talks on sending a North Korean delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
After a year in which he ordered a string of missile launches – including three intercontinental ballistic missiles – and the regime’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test, Kim used his annual New Year’s Day address to declare the North’s nuclear weapons capability a reality.
“The US should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my desk. This is not blackmail but reality.”
Dressed in a western-style grey suit and tie, Kim added, however, that the North’s nuclear arsenal played a purely deterrent role. “The entire area of the US mainland is within our nuclear strike range,” he said. “The US can never start a war against me and our country. These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”
Asked about Kim’s claim that he has a nuclear button on his desk, and that the weapons can reach the US, Donald Trump said from his New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago: “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
Kim said North Korean athletes could participate in the Winter Olympics, which open in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang next month.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, has encouraged Pyongyang to send a delegation to the Games, hoping their presence would help ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Kim said: “The Winter Olympic games that will be held soon in the South will be a good opportunity to display the status of the Korean nation, and we sincerely wish that the event will be held with good results.
“We are prepared to take various steps, including the dispatch of a delegation.”
The Winter Olympics will be held from 9-25 February, followed by the Paralympics from 9-18 March.