Kim Jong Un repeated claims that he could hit the U.S. with a nuclear weapon, saying that its deterrent is “irreversible” and would prevent President Donald Trump from starting a war.
Kim also said he planned to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, Yonhap News reported, even as he called for mass production of nuclear warheads. South Korean television stations stopped broadcasting the speech before it ended.
“It’s reality, not a threat, that the nuclear button is always on my desk,” Kim said in a televised New Year address on Monday. “The U.S. can never start a war against myself and our nation now.”
Kim’s Jan. 1 speeches have previously set the direction for tensions on the Korean peninsula. A year ago, he said North Korea was in its “last stage” of preparations to test fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, and he ended up firing three of them.
Besides those tests, North Korea also detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device and fired more than a dozen rockets. South Korea assessed that the most recent launch in late November of a new Hwasong-15 ICBM — its largest yet — could potentially reach Washington, though additional analysis was needed to determine whether it was capable of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
War of Words
Last year was also notable for a war of words between Kim and Trump, who repeatedly threatened military action to stop the rogue state’s nuclear program. Trump referred to Kim’s weight in one tweet, prompting the North Korean leader to call the U.S. president a “dotard” and warning of the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
Even so, Trump has also floated the idea of friendship with Kim on occasion, and has called on him to “make a deal” on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The United Nations Security Council last month approved its strongest sanctions yet on North Korea — a move that Pyongyang described as an “act of war.” In recent days, Trump has warned that alleged illicit Chinese oil sales to North Korea may jeopardize a peaceful resolution to the confrontation. China has denied the accusations.