'US Mainland in Our Nuclear Strike Range' - Kim Jong

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for urgent talks with South Korea to make the Winter Olympics next month a success even while repeating claims that he could strike the USA with a nuclear bomb if necessary.

Moon's comments came after a New Year's Day speech by Kim who said he was "open to dialogue" with Seoul, and for North Korean athletes to possibly take part in the Winter Games, but steadfastly declared North Korea a nuclear power. "The entire area of the USA mainland is within our nuclear strike range", he said.

Departing from his usual black or navy suits, Kim gave his televised speech wearing black-rimmed glasses and slicked back hair, speaking fluently and rarely looking down to read as he raised the possibility of sending a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

In his address, he also called for warming relations with South Korea.

It is the second known vessel under probe by South Korea on suspicions of ship-to-ship supplies of petroleum products to North Korea, banned under the worldwide sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

Kim also reportedly highlighted the isolated state's economic achievements during the speech, and nodded towards trying to improve the country's standard of living.

An official from South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the 5,100-ton KOTI and its crew members were being held at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port on the country's west coast amid an inspection over supposed "North Korea-related" activity.

Kim's customary New Year's speech is closely watched for indications of the policy direction the unpredictable and reclusive leader is likely to pursue in the coming year.

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Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, told CNN the softened tone toward South Korea was a surprise.

UNSC Resolution 2375, adopted in September, bans member countries from ship-to-ship transfers of any goods for North Korea.

Kim Jong Un also says expanding his arsenal is now a priority.

Despite the apparent olive branch, Kim also repeated claims that he could hit anywhere in the US with a nuclear weapon, and called for mass production of nuclear warheads.

"But an olive branch is always wrapped in some sort of belligerent coating in North Korea, it doesn't mean the end of the nuclear program ..."

Asked about Kim's claim that he has a nuclear button on his desk, and that the weapons can reach the US, Donald Trump said from his New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago: "We'll see, we'll see".

Kim said: "The Winter Olympic games that will be held soon in the South will be a good opportunity to display the status of the Korean nation, and we sincerely wish that the event will be held with good results".

The Winter Olympics will be held from 9-25 February, followed by the Paralympics from 9-18 March. "The games make it possible for Washington and Seoul to meet Pyongyang's demand for self-restraint - adjusting their military exercises - without losing face and appearing weak on Pyongyang".

  • Adam Floyd