North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned Monday that a “nuclear button” was on his desk during a televised New Year’s Day address.
“The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said.
Kim further boasted that the U.S. could “never start a war against me and our country” while also vowing to mass-produce “nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles” in 2018.
“This year, we should focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our society is threatened,” Kim said.
Kim, however, took a more reserved tone when addressing South Korea, calling for immediate talks in an attempt to bring Pyongyang to the upcoming Winter Olympics.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people, and we wish the games will be a success,” Kim said.
South Korea’s presidential office responded by stating it would welcome such talks between government officials.
“We welcome that Kim expressed willingness to send a delegation and proposed talks as he acknowledged the need for improvement in inter-Korean ties,” a South Korean government spokesman said. “The successful launch of the games will contribute to stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in East Asia and the rest of the world.”
The North Korean leader went on to call for lessening military tensions with his neighbors to the South as well.
“When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment,” Kim added. “Both the North and the South should make efforts.”
Kim’s annual address followed a year in which North Korea carried out numerous tests as part of its nuclear weapons program. In September, Pyongyang carried out its 6th and most powerful nuclear test. In November, it tested its 18th missile, the Hwasong-15 ICBM, which flew farther than any other previous.
On Sunday, Admirial Mullen, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, argued that the U.S. and North Korea were now closer than ever to nuclear war.
“We’re actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been,” Mullen said. “I don’t see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.”
A report in late December from The Telegraph also claimed that the Trump administration has been drawing up plans for a “bloody nose” military attack on Pyongyang in an attempt to stop its nuclear weapons program.