North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday night claimed that his country has developed the capability to hit the entire U.S. mainland with its nuclear weapons.
In a defiant message released in honor of the start of the new year, Kim warned that he was always within reach of the nuclear button.
“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,” Kim said during the televised New Year’s Day speech, according to Reuters.
He also claimed that "we have secured powerful deterrence against the nuclear threat from the U.S. and said the U.S. should be aware that his country's nuclear forces were now a reality not a threat, and North Korea achieved the historic feat of "completing" its nuclear forces.
At the same time, Kim also claimed in his address that North Korea was "a responsible nuclear nation that loves peace."
He claimed he would only use his weapons if there was aggression against North Korea.
The isolated country has continued carrying out missile and nuclear tests, in defiance of international pressure and United Nations resolutions.
Most recently, North Korea launched a Hwasong-15 missile, a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which officials said can fly over 13,000 km (8,080 miles).
Pyongyang said following that launch as well that that it had test-fired its most advanced missile, putting the U.S. mainland within range, and also declared itself to be "a responsible nuclear power".
The United Nations Security Council recently announced new sanctions in response to North Korea’s November 29 test. Those sanctions sought to further limit North Korea’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.
The U.S. later followed and slapped sanctions on two North Korean officials behind their country’s ballistic missile program.
Earlier on Sunday, Michael Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the United States faces a greater threat of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula than at any previous time.
While Mullen acknowledged that President Donald Trump has succeeded in getting China to take a more active role in trying to restrain North Korea's nuclear activities, he also said that Trump has disrupted long-held views of the U.S. role in the world, and that America’s enemies benefit from that uncertainty in "an incredibly dangerous climate."
Trump has in the past threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if it attacks the United States while North Korea insists the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.
While U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Washington is open to dialogue with North Korea, an unconfirmed report this week indicated that the United States is drawing up plans for a “bloody nose” military attack on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.