North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un delivered a New Year’s Eve speech on the state-run KCTV television stations on Sunday, saying the United States is within range of the country’s nuclear weapons and that he can deploy them at any time.
“The entire mainland of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear weapons, and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office,” Kim said. “[The U.S.] should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality.”
Kim began his speech by giving a nod to relations with South Korea, saying he is considering sending a North Korean delegation to next month’s PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. He quickly turned to flaunting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and threatening the United States.
“No matter how much America wants to attack us with their military might and nuclear power, they know that now we possess such great nuclear power, and, therefore, they will not dare,” Kim said, adding that the development of nuclear weapons is a “historic accomplishment.”
Kim reportedly stated that he will order his military to mass produce nuclear weapons in 2018.
His 40-minute speech mentioned the United States 11 times.
The Diplomat magazine reported on the speech:
Whether or not Kim Jong-un has a physical button to authorize launch or not, it remains the case that North Korea’s nuclear weapons continue to see highly centralized and assertive command and control.
The implication, for now, is simple: Kim Jong-un’s nuclear forces are operational and ready to deter the United States and retaliate to any first strike that would seek to either disarm Kim Jong-un of his weapons or kill him.
Kim’s speech also addressed the continued pressure on North Korea following the United Nations’ imposing new sanctions on the country in 2017.
Kim said North Korea needs to become more self-reliant, including in the manufacturing and energy sectors, according to the Diplomat: “North Korea is able to export fewer commodities than ever before and is limited in the quantity of refined and crude petroleum products it can import, among other restrictions.”
South Korean media and politicians have largely focused on Kim’s comments regarding the Winter Olympics. Leftist politicians have described the call for dialogue on the athletic front as “a positive sign,” according to South Korean outlet Yonhap. Conservative opposition party figures have dismissed the Olympics talk as “a shallow charm offensive” couched in nuclear threats.
In 2017, North Korea launched 16 ballistic missiles with varying rates of success, according to a CNN timeline.