North Korea: Kim Jong-un signals 'path to dialogue open' with South as he warns US of 'nuclear button'

Dictator uses New Year address to say he may send delegation to PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics

Jon Sharman
Monday 01 January 2018 02:00
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Kim Jong-un signals 'path to dialogue open' with South as he warns US of 'nuclear button'

The US will never be able to start a war against North Korea now that his country has developed the capability to hit all of the US mainland with its nuclear weapons, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has claimed.

“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,” Mr Kim said during a televised New Year’s Day speech.

During the address Mr Kim made overtures to South Korea, saying the path to dialogue was open and adding it was imperative to lower military tensions on the peninsula.

The dictator tempered his rhetoric on deterrence with the suggestion he may send a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics when they are held in February.

It is possible officials from the two Koreas may meet in the near future to discuss the idea, Mr Kim said, adding that he hoped the event was successful.

He said: ”The Winter Olympic games that will be held soon in the South will be a good opportunity to display the status of the Korean nation and we sincerely wish that the event will be held with good results.”

Pyongyang and Seoul should improve their relations, he was reported as saying, adding that the North will only use nuclear weapons if its security is threatened.

This year’s speech was seen as particularly important because of the high tensions over Pyongyang’s frequent missile launches and its nuclear test in 2017.

The tests were the focus of fiery verbal exchanges between the North and US President Donald Trump, who has called Mr Kim ”little rocket man” and threatened him with “fire and fury”.

Mr Kim also stressed North Korea’s economic achievements during the speech, and noted the importance of improving the nation’s standard of living.

His claim to have “completed” the state nuclear force may mean he considers the deterrent effective enough to allow dialogue with the outside world, experts have previously told The Independent.

Professor Lee Geun, of Seoul National University, said the declaration in December was the “most important” development of 2017 for Pyongyang.

Mr Kim would now end “overt missile and nuclear tests” while beginning “hard bargaining for nuclear status and a peace treaty with the US,” he predicted.

And John Nilsson-Wright, a senior lecturer at Cambridge University, said a nuclear deterrent gave Mr Kim “something he can trade” if he wanted to spur economic development through the relaxation of international sanctions.

Additional reporting by agencies

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