Kim Jong Un Delivers New Year’s Address
By Paloma Delgado
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has ended the year of 2017 with a strong message regarding North Korea’s nuclear power capabilities. In his New Year’s Address, Jong Un claimed that North Korea is in a “peaceful nuclear state” with no intention of
using their nuclear weapons unless provoked.
He also claimed that the entirety of the Americas are within reach of nuclear attack and that the nuclear button is “on his desk at all times.”
This year’s speech differed drastically from last year’s in which Jong Un had expressed interest in discussing relations with the United States under the new administration. This year he has changed his tune.
Instead the North Korean leader has said that he is focused on working with South Korea in order to alleviate tensions. He has called for an open dialogue concerning the Winter Olympics in the South and has agreed to send a delegation to South Korea.
Furthermore, the South Korean president believes that the North is far less likely to disrupt the olympics with missile launchings if they are participating in the Olympics. Some see Jong Un’s means of mitigation as an intentional way in which to damage relations between South Korea and the United States. Up until this point, Kim Jong Un has generally ignored South Korean leader Moon Jae, viewing him as a cowardly proponent of the United States. However, Kim Jong Un may have noticed the increased tension between President Moon and President Trump and seen an opportunity to use it to his own advantage.
Several hours after Kim Jong Un’s speech, Moon welcomed the proposal from the North. Talks between the Koreas could encourage a much needed dialogue after a year in which Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim exchanged threats of war. President Trump has pursued a tough approach with North Korea in which he has said that there will be no talks with North Korea without signs that they have given up on nuclear testing. Trump has hinted at the possibility of a pre-emptive strike if things with North Korea get out of hand.
The North has yet to demonstrate their nuclear capability but there is a general consensus that they are a threat and will become more advanced with time. Experts estimate Jong Un’s arsenal range to be between 20 and 60 weapons. However, they doubt that the North Korean leader has a nuclear button on his desk, saying that he cannot possibly launch his weapons in a matter of seconds. Many of the intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea is armed with involve liquid-fuel weapons that would take hours to launch.
Tension has been rising between the U.S. and North Korea throughout the past couple of months. According to Admiral Mike Mullen in an interview with ABC, the U.S. is, “closer to nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we've ever been.” Mullen went on to add that he did not see an opportunity, “ to solve [the situation with North Korea] diplomatically at this particular point.” Others hope that there is a possibility for diplomacy and that the U.S. will continue to apply economic, trade, diplomatic, and political sanctions toward the North.
We have yet to see whether Kim Jong Un’s shrouded threats are a form of negotiation or a sign of further destruction.