Kim Jong Un said North Korea is in the “last stage” of preparations to test-fire an inter-continental ballistic missile, refusing to slow his nuclear arms development as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office in Washington.
Kim made his remarks in a New Year televised address as he outlined his country’s military achievements for the past year, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday. North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests under Kim and launched a series of long-range rockets.
North Korea “will continue to strengthen its ability based on nuclear might to mount a preemptive attack,” Kim said during a half-hour speech that touched on a range of issues, including economic policy and relations with South Korea.
Since taking power in late 2011, the North Korean leader has concentrated on developing nuclear missiles that could reach the U.S. The country has refused to accept U.S. demands to freeze its arms development before the two sides can resume international disarmament talks.
Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, likened Kim to a “maniac” during his campaign while suggesting he could meet with the North Korea leader for nuclear talks. While Kim made no mention of Trump in his speech, his comments released Sunday signal North Korea may seek to test-fire a long-range missile around the inauguration to raise stakes ahead of potential talks with the Trump administration.
The regime said previously it had the ability to mount nuclear warheads on to missiles with the range to reach the U.S., an assertion that was bolstered by its launch of a long-range rocket in February and another in August. It conducted its fifth nuclear test in September.
Kim said he would “gladly join hands” with anyone who seeks better relations between North Korea and South Korea.
South Korea may hold a presidential election earlier than its initial schedule for December after President Park Geun-hye was impeached last month over an influence-peddling scandal.