North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year's speech Monday to declare the United States will never be able to start a war with his own country, which now has the capacity to target the entire US with its nuclear weapons.
"The whole territory of the US 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, while emphasizing that the weapons would only be used if North Korea is threatened.
He continued that theme in his New Year's address, announcing that North Korea would focus on "mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment" in the coming year.
North Korea tested intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September in defiance of international warnings and sanctions, raising fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula.
After a year dominated by fiery rhetoric and escalating tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Kim used his televised New Year's Day speech to declare North Korea "a peace-loving and responsible nuclear power" and call for lower military tensions on the Korean peninsula and improved ties with the South.
"When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment," Kim said. "Both the North and the South should make efforts."
Kim said he will consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics Games to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
"North Korea's participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to showcase the national pride and we wish the Games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility," Kim said.
South Korea said it welcomed Kim's offer to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Games and hold talks with the South to discuss possible participation.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said North Korea's participation will ensure safety of the Pyeongchang Olympics and proposed last month that Seoul and Washington postpone large military drills that the North denounces as a rehearsal for war until after the Games.
The isolated country announced it has successfully concluded a new intercontinental ballistic missile test on the Hwasong-15, capable of reaching anywhere in the US.
State television said the new missile soared to an altitude of about 4,475 km (2,780 miles)—more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station—and flew 950 km (590 miles) during its 53-minute flight.