Tensions on the Korean peninsula have "reached a touch-and-go point" and nuclear war "may break out at any moment," North Korea's deputy UN ambassador Kim In Ryong warned on Monday, the Washington Post reports.
Kim relayed the terrifying words to a UN committee this week, blaming the rising tensions on the United States' joint military exercises with South Korea "aimed at mounting a preemptive nuclear strike" against North Korea. His statement came the same day the US and South Korea started a weeklong series of naval exercises off the South Korean coast.
"Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the US is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances," he said in his prepared statement.
He also wrote—but didn't read aloud—that "the entire US mainland is within our firing range."
Although some US officials told Reuters in July that they believed North Korea was capable of reaching the continental US with a missile after its successful intercontinental ballistic missile test, experts remained skeptical about the country's ability to craft a warhead that could survive the re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. Kim Jong-un recently lofted threats toward Guam, which sits pretty far west of the US in the Pacific, but it sounds like the country is making progress on its ability to launch a missile further. Just last week, Trump's chief of staff John Kelly said Pyongyang "is developing a pretty good nuclear re-entry vehicle," according to CNN.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this week that the US will attempt to resolve tensions with North Korea diplomatically "until the first bomb drops," though Trump's ongoing tweets about how diplomacy with the "Little Rocket Man" is a waste of time doesn't exactly back up Tillerson's sentiment.
Kim said that the DPRK supports "the total elimination of nuclear weapons," but as long as the US continues to threaten the country, North Korea is prepared to retaliate.