Anti-Trump protesters hold up signs in front of police officers near the South Korean National Assembly where US President Donald Trump made a speech, in Seoul, South Korea on November 8, 2017. REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON
Anti-Trump protesters hold up signs in front of police officers near the South Korean National Assembly where US President Donald Trump made a speech, in Seoul, South Korea on November 8, 2017. REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON

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

Trump’s remark on Twitter came after 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 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!" Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night.

Earlier in the day, Trump claimed that his efforts to pressure North Korea were having a "big impact" as 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.

Kim’s olive branch to South Korea was one of the most promising peace overtures since 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.

‘Very sceptical’

"Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea," 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!"

Kim’s speech was part of an attempt to drive a wedge in the US-South Korea alliance, and then reunify the Korean peninsula under North Korean rule, according to a Trump administration official who asked not to be identified.

The US was in close contact with South Korea on a unified response to North Korea, the official said.

"We are very sceptical of Kim Jong-un’s sincerity in sitting down and having talks," State Department spokeswoman 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 discussing North Korea’s participation in the Olympics, Seoul wanted to use the opportunity to rebuild overall relations, he said.

Many obstacles remain to a deal that could prompt North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Past efforts at dialogue have failed, and the US has said it will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

Still, the possibility of talks reduces the odds of a military conflict, which had seemed more probable as North Korea tested weapons and Trump issued threats.

While Kim claims to have the capability to strike anywhere in the US with a nuclear weapon, analysts say it is unclear whether his regime yet has a warhead that could survive re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere and target specific locations.

Bloomberg