UPDATE 1 – 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. He added that North Korea would only use its nuclear arsenal if threatened.

“The United States can never fight a war against me and our state. It should properly know that the whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office and this is just a reality, not a threat,” he said.

With the nuclear force now operational, North Korea should begin mass production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, Kim said.

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.

But despite Monday’s declaration, 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.”

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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