SEOUL: Kim Jong Un urged North Korea to mass-produce nuclear warheads and missiles in a defiant New Year message Monday (Jan 1) suggesting he would continue to accelerate a rogue weapons programme that has sent international tensions soaring.
Pyongyang dramatically ramped up its efforts to become a nuclear power in 2017, despite a raft of international sanctions and increasing bellicose rhetoric from the United States.
"We must mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missile and speed up their deployment," said Kim in his annual address to the nation, reiterating his claims that North Korea had achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state.
Kim presided over multiple missile tests in 2017 and carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test - which it said was a hydrogen bomb - in September.
The North says its weapons programme is designed to be able to target the US mainland.
US President Donald Trump has responded to each test with his own amplified declarations, threatening to "totally destroy" Pyongyang and taunting Kim, saying the North Korean leader was on "a suicide mission".
But far from persuading Kim to give up his nuclear drive, analysts say Trump's tough talk may have prompted the North Korean leader to accelerate his dangerous quest.
"(The North) can cope with any kind of nuclear threats from the US and has a strong nuclear deterrence that is able to prevent the US from playing with fire," Kim said Monday.
"The nuclear button is always on my table. This is not blackmail but reality."