In a new year message, which is sure to generate an anguish, North Korea’s numero uno leader Kim Jong-Un has urged his country to mass-produce nuclear warheads and missiles. His message suggests that North Korea would continue to accelerate a rogue weapons programme that has stoked international tensions.
Pyongyang dramatically ramped up its efforts to become a nuclear power in 2017, despite a raft of international sanctions and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the United States.
Kim, who also said that he always had a nuclear launch button on his desk, 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.
“We must mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and speed up their deployment,” said Kim in his annual address to the nation, reiterating his claims that North Korea had achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state.
The North says its weapons programme is designed to be able to target the US mainland and tested increasingly longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) throughout 2017.
US President Donald Trump has responded to each test with his own amplified declarations, threatening to “totally destroy” Pyongyang and taunting Kim, saying the North Korean leader was on “a suicide mission”.
“(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 adding, “The nuclear button is always on my table. The US must realise this is not blackmail but reality.”
His comments come after a former top US military officer warned that the United States is now closer than it has ever been to a nuclear war with the North, with little hope of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
As tensions spiked in the region in recent months, the international community has slapped a range of sanctions on the North aimed at curbing its weapons programme and squeezing the country’s leadership.
In December the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed new, US-drafted sanctions to restrict oil supplies vital for the impoverished state.
(With inputs from agencies)