N Korea's Kim says will only use nukes if threatened

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North Korean leader offers olive branch to South Korea while issuing nuclear warning to US

SEOUL Mr Kim Jong Un yesterday warned the United States that he has a "nuclear button" on his desk ready for use if North Korea is threatened. But he offered an olive branch to South Korea, saying he was "open to dialogue" with Seoul.

After a year dominated by fiery rhetoric and escalating tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, Mr Kim used his televised New Year's Day speech to 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," Mr Kim said.

"Both the North and the South should make efforts."

Mr Kim said he will consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics Games to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.

"North Korea's participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people and we wish the games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility," Mr Kim said.

South Korean President Moon JaeIn has said North Korea's participation will ensure the 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.

Rather than encouraging US measures that "threaten the security and peace of the Korean peninsula", Seoul should instead respond to overtures from the North, Mr Kim said.

A spokesman for Mr Moon's office said it was reviewing Mr Kim's New Year's Day speech.

Asked by reporters to comment on the speech, US President Donald Trump simply said "we'll see, we'll see", as he walked into a New Year's Eve celebration at Mar-a-Lago, his elite resort in Florida.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr Kim's address.

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. - REUTERS