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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Trump boasts of 'bigger' nuclear button in retort to Kim Jong-un

Aggressive tweet is likely to heighten tensions between the US and North Korea

Relationships continue to deteriorate between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Relationships continue to deteriorate between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

President Donald Trump has responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s latest threats, saying that he has a “much bigger and more powerful” nuclear button.

Mr Trump’s remark on Twitter came after Mr Kim warned the US on Monday that the nuclear button “is always on my desk”. The North Korean leader called his nuclear deterrent “irreversible” and claimed it would prevent Mr Trump from starting a war.

“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night.

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump claimed that his efforts to pressure North Korea were having a “big impact” as Mr Kim proposed talks with South Korea on sending a North Korean delegation to the winter Olympic games next month. Seoul proposed holding talks with Pyongyang on January 9, which would be the first formal meeting between them since 2015.

Mr Kim’s olive branch to South Korea was one of the most promising peace overtures since Mr Trump took office. The US president has increased sanctions against North Korea and threatened to use military action to dismantle the regime’s nuclear weapons programme.

“Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!”

Trump administration officials sidestepped questions about how they squared South Korea’s willingness to meet with the US position that Mr Kim must first demonstrate a readiness to pause, if not abandon, his efforts to build a nuclear arsenal that can hit the US mainland.

“We are very sceptical of Kim Jong-un’s sincerity in sitting down and having talks,” State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “our policy hasn’t changed at all”.

South Korea co-ordinated with the US before making its proposal to North Korea, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters in Seoul on Tuesday. In addition to clearing the way for North Korea’s participation in the Olympics, Seoul wanted to use the opportunity to rebuild overall relations, he said.