Kim Jong Un says nuclear button to hit US is ‘always on my desk’

  • In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers his New Year's speech at an undisclosed place in North Korea Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. Kim said Monday the United States should be aware that his country's nuclear forces are now a reality, not a threat. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea –– Kim Jong Un Monday repeated claims that he could hit the U.S. with a nuclear weapon, saying that its deterrent is “irreversible” and would prevent President Donald Trump from starting a war.

“It’s reality, not a threat, that the nuclear button is always on my desk,” Kim said in a televised New Year address. “The U.S. can never start a war against myself and our nation now.”

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South Korean television stations stopped broadcasting the speech before it ended.

Kim’s Jan. 1 speeches have previously set the direction for tensions on the Korean peninsula. A year ago, he said North Korea was in its “last stage” of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, and he ended up launching three of them.

Besides those tests, North Korea also detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device and fired more than a dozen rockets. South Korea assessed that the most recent launch in late November of a new Hwasong-15 ICBM –– its largest yet –– could potentially reach Washington, though additional analysis was needed to determine whether it was capable of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Last year was also notable for a war of words between Kim and Trump, who repeatedly threatened military action to stop the rogue state’s nuclear program. Trump referred to Kim’s weight in one Twitter post, prompting the North Korean leader to call Trump a “dotard” and warn of the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

Even so, Trump has also floated the idea of friendship with Kim on occasion, and has called on him to “make a deal” on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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The United Nations Security Council last month approved its strongest sanctions yet on North Korea — a move that Pyongyang described as an “act of war.” In recent days, Trump has warned that alleged illicit Chinese oil sales to North Korea may jeopardize a peaceful resolution to the confrontation. China has denied the accusations.

(David Tweed contributed to this report.)