SEOUL: Kim Jong Un yesterday warned the US he has a “nuclear button” on his desk ready for use if North Korea is threatened, but offered an olive branch to South Korea, saying he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul.
After a year dominated by fiery rhetoric and escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, Kim used his televised New Year’s Day speech to declare North Korea “a peace-loving and responsible nuclear power” and call for lower military tensions and improved ties with the South.
“When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment,” Kim said. “Both the North and the South should make efforts.”
Kim said he would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics Games to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to showcase the national pride and we wish the Games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility,” Kim said.
South Korea said it welcomed Kim’s offer to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Games and hold talks with the South to discuss possible participation.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said North Korea’s participation will ensure the safety of the Pyeongchang Olympics and proposed last month that Seoul and Washington postpone large military drills that the North denounces as a rehearsal for war until after the Games.
Asked by reporters to comment on Kim’s speech, US President Donald Trump said, “we’ll see, we’ll see”, as he walked into New Year’s Eve celebration at Mar-a-Lago, his elite resort in Florida.
Kim said North Korea would focus in the coming year on “mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment”.
This, he said, was “irreversible with any force”, making it impossible for the US to start a war against North Korea.
“The whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office and this is just a reality, not a threat,” he said, while emphasising that the weapons would only be used if North Korea is threatened.