'Nuclear button is always on my table': North Korea's Kim Jong-Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that the United States 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. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team Seoul, South Korea Jan 01, 2018, 01.15 AM (IST)

In a defiant New Year message, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said today that he was always within the reach of the nuclear button. He also said that North Korea must mass-produce nuclear weapons and missiles.

"The nuclear button is always on my table. The US must realise this is not blackmail but reality, said Kim, reiterating his claims that North Korea was a nuclear state.

"(The North) can cope with any kind of nuclear threats from the US and has a strong nuclear deterrence that is able to prevent the US from playing with fire," Kim said in his annual address to the nation.

"We must mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missile and speed up their deployment," said Kim.

The message comes after months of escalating tensions over his country's weapons programme.   

US President Donald Trump has responded to each test with his own counter-threats, threatening to "totally destroy" Pyongyang and saying Kim Jong-Un was on "a suicide mission".

Analysts say Trump's tough talk may have prompted the North Korean leader to drive through with his dangerous quest, AFP reported.

Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said the Trump presidency had helped create "an incredibly dangerous climate", in an interview on ABC's "This Week".  

"We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been," he said.

Kim Jong-Un has presided over multiple missile tests in recent months and the North's sixth and most powerful nuclear test -- which it said was a hydrogen bomb -- in September. 

In December the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed new, US-drafted sanctions to restrict oil supplies vital for the impoverished state. The sanctions also received the backing of China, the North's sole major ally and economic lifeline 

The third raft of sanctions imposed last year, which the North slammed as an "act of war".

Ties with South Korea must improve: Kim Jong-Un

The North Korean firebrand leader said inter-Korean ties must improve ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

North Korea could send a delegation to the South for the Olympics, the first indication Pyongyang may participate in next month's Games despite tensions over its weapons programme.

Kim said, "We are willing to take necessary measures including to dispatch our delegation" to the Pyeongchang Games which Seoul and organisers have billed as a "peace Olympics" and have been keen for North Korea to take part.

"I sincerely hope the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be staged successfully," Kim said in his new year's address to the nation.

He also said that the "sharp military tension between the North and the South must be eased and peaceful atmosphere should be in place."

"As long as an unstable state which is neither a war nor peace continues, the North and the South cannot guarantee a success of the Olympics, sit down for talks or move forward for reunification." 

(With inputs from AFP