In his annual New Year’s address, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un tried to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its ally South Korea while threatening the United States with nuclear war.
Kim said his country had completed its nuclear program and the “button” for nuclear weapons was on his desk.
“The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table,” he said during the speech, as provisionally translated by the AP. The official transcript of his address was expected to be released shortly. “The entire area of the U.S. mainland is within our nuclear strike range. … The United States can never start a war against me and our country.”
Last week, North Korean officials said it was a “pipe dream” for the United States to think the isolated nation would give up its nuclear weapons, and called tough new U.N. sanctions targeting the country “an act of war” that violate its sovereignty.
Kim also called for improved relations with the South, an idea mentioned in speeches more often than it is met. He said the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics would be a good opportunity to showcase the status of the Korean nation.
He said the North and South could meet urgently to discuss the North sending a delegation.
“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,” he said.
By playing nice with South Korea, Kim hopes to make it less likely that the South will support any U.S. military action to take out Kim’s missile and nuclear programs. Indeed, President Moon Jae-in responded favorably to Kim’s empty gesture:
South Korea’s presidential office says it welcomes the proposal to hold talks between government officials over the issue of North Korea sending a delegation to the Olympics. The office of President Moon Jae-in says the successful hosting of the Pyeongchang Olympics will contribute to peace and harmony not only on the Korean Peninsula and in northeast Asia but in the entire world.
The more Kim threatens nuclear war, the more nervous South Korea gets. But Trump is faced with a stark choice: accept North Korea as a nuclear power or do something about it. Previous U.S. presidents kicked the North Korean nuclear can down the road, maintaining the illusion that we could negotiate the weapons away with the help of pressure from UN sanctions.
Now, there’s no more road for the can to be kicked and Kim has shattered the illusion.