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North Korea's Kim Says All Of U.S. Within Its Nuclear Range

RFE/RL January 01, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his country has developed the ability to hit all of the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons and that the nuclear button is "on my table."

"The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat," Kim said in a televised New Year's Day address on January 1.

He said the country had "completed" the process of becoming a nuclear power and that "we must mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and speed up their deployment."

He added, though, that it would only use such weapons if its security were threatened.

The erratic leader did offer some conciliatory language to its South Korean neighbor and rival, saying the "path is open" to dialogue with an aim to improve ties between Pyongyang and Seoul.

He also said he was considering sending a North Korean team to compete in the Winter Olympics scheduled for February 9-25 in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang.

Kim suggested that meeting of the two countries' officials was possible to discuss participation in the 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," he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pressed North Korea to bring its athletes to the Olympics, saying it would ensure the safety of the games.

South Korea is a major ally of the United States, which has thousands of troops stationed in the South.

The United States and North Korea have been in a war of words that has intensified each time Pyongyang has tested its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in violation of United Nations resolutions.

In September, U.S. President Donald Trump in a speech at the UN speech vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if it continued to threaten the U.S. and its allies with its actions.

The United States has also been the leading force behind the imposition of tougher financial sanctions against North Korea, a move Pyongyang has called "an act of war."

Mike Mullen, an admiral and former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC TV's This Week program on December 31 that the United States was "closer to a nuclear war with North Korea" than ever before, given the extreme rhetoric from both nations' leaders.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP


Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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