North Korea declares completion of nuclear force, entire U.S. within range

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared the completion of the country’s nuclear force, saying that the entire U.S. mainland is now within reach and a nuclear button has been installed on his desk.

In a New Year’s address broadcast on state television on Monday, Kim said his country’s nuclear force is now a “powerful deterrence” against the “nuclear threat” from the United States. “The U.S. cannot declare war against us,” he said.

“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,” he said, as quoted by the Reuters news agency. He added that North Korea would only use its nuclear arsenal if threatened.

Kim also called for improved relations with South Korea and said the North is willing to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

“The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country. We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success,” he said, as quoted by Yonhap. “We have readiness to take various steps, including the dispatch of the delegation.”

Monday’s speech came just over a month after North Korea carried out its third and most advanced test to date of a long-range missile. Experts said the missile was capable of reaching all of the U.S. mainland if flown at a standard trajectory, although the weight of a nuclear warhead could reduce its range.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been escalating for months, fueled by North Korea’s frequent missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and threatening statements by President Donald Trump.

In July, North Korea test-fired its first two long-range missiles, including one which was in theory capable of reaching large parts of the U.S. mainland. North Korea also carried out its sixth and most advanced nuclear test to date on September 3, which led to a new round of UN sanctions.

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