Kim Jong-un inspects a hydrogen bomb model hours before a nuclear test that caused an earthquake on September 3. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has personally declared for the first time that his country’s nuclear weapons program is “complete.”

Kim made the comment on Tuesday while presiding over his government’s 8th Conference of the Munitions Industry, a key gathering of defense-related officials, scientists and technicians. The official KCNA news agency quoted him as saying that the North “successfully carried out the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

“The Juche-based national defense industry will continue to develop and we will win victory in the showdown with the imperialists and the US,” Kim added, according to an English-language version of the KCNA report released on Wednesday that was picked up by South Korean media.

Though Pyongyang declared that it had achieved mastery in developing nuclear weapons on November 29 following its test launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, the pronouncement was delivered at the time in the form of an official government statement.

Western analysts have speculated on whether North Korea’s confidence that it has reached nuclear deterrence will bring it to the bargaining table with the US and its allies.

Tillerson olive branch

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson extended North Korea the possibility of direct talks without preconditions while speaking at a think tank in Washington on Tuesday, in what’s being interpreted as a new diplomatic overture to Pyongyang.

“We’ve said from the diplomatic side, we’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk,” Tillerson told a forum hosted by the Seoul-based Korea Foundation and the Atlantic Council in Washington. “And we’re ready to have the first meeting without preconditions. Let’s just meet.”

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