Nuclear button always on my desk: Kim Jong-un
In his New Year's Day address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for accelerated mass-production of nuclear warheads and missiles, vowing to continue the nuclear weapons program that stoked international tensions, leading to sanctions. North Korea strengthened its efforts to become a nuclear power amid rising tensions with the US. Kim warned the US must realize the nuclear launch-button is always on his desk.
North Korea says it's strengthening nuclear weapons to protect itself from the US, adding the US's military activities with South Korea are a precursor to a US attack or invasion. It recently conducted multiple nuclear tests, including that of a powerful hydrogen bomb in Sep'17. Urging to accelerate the production and deployment of nuclear weapons, Kim claimed North Korea had become a nuclear state.
North Korea claimed its weapons are designed to target the US mainland; it tested many longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last year. US President Donald Trump, in response to the nuclear tests, threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea. However, Trump's warnings and threats didn't persuade Kim to give up his nuclear mission but instead prompted him to ramp it up even more.
During the address, Kim said: "The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons. (We) can cope with any kind of nuclear threats. The nuclear-button is always on my table. The US must realize this is not blackmail, but reality."
Kim's warning to the US comes after the US's former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, said the US is now closer to a nuclear war with North Korea than ever before. He said President Trump's posture towards North Korea created "an incredibly dangerous climate", leaving him with not many options. Mullen doesn't see any opportunity to solve the crisis diplomatically.
Kim said North Korea is "a responsible nuclear nation that loves peace," as long as there's no aggression directed at them, "we do not intend to use nuclear powers." However, he added they are ready "to retaliate against the enemy's move for a nuclear war."
As tensions between the US and North Korea spiked, the latter also came under more sanctions over its nuclear weapons program and repeated nuclear missile tests. The United Nations Security Council, in December, unanimously passed new sanctions drafted by the US to restrict oil supplies vital for North Korea's programs. The sanctions aimed at curbing Kim's nuclear drive, however, seem to have no impact.
Experts say the US must initiate talks with North Korea to reduce tensions; however, this seems impossible considering President Trump's North Korea policy. North always said it will participate in talks with the US only as an equally strong nuclear state. However, the US insists Pyongyang must give up nuclear weapons program before talks, suggesting it wouldn't accept it as a nuclear state.