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SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: In this handout photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic meeting between leaders of both countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying hopes to end decades of hostility and the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. (Photo by Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

Kim referred to his country as a "nuclear and military power," state media says

The country conducted two nuclear tests and various missile tests in 2016

Kim determined to develop nukes by the end of 2017 "at all costs," defector says

Seoul CNN —  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that his country is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“Research and development of the cutting-edge tech weapons are actively progressing and strengthening our defense capabilities, including last stage preparation of tests for intercontinental ballistic rocket launch have been continuously succeeding,” Kim said in a televised address on New Year’s Day.

The speech was full of the North’s usual self-congratulatory, lofty proclamations and anti-Western rhetoric.

Kim referred to North Korea as a “nuclear and military power in the east that formidable enemy dare encroach on” and said “unless the US and its vassal forces stop nuclear threat and blackmail and unless they stop the war exercises which they stage right at our noses under the pretext of annual exercises, the DPRK would keep increasing the military capabilities for self-defense and preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force,” according to state news agency KCNA.

02:29 - Source: CNN
What could Trump do about North Korea?

But there’s reason to take Kim’s threats more seriously than those in years past.

In 2016 North Korea backed up its fiery rhetoric with two nuclear tests – the country had only conducted three before – and a handful of land and sea-based missile tests.

“Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong Un is a recipe for disaster,” Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US military’s Pacific Command, said in a December speech.

RELATED: Is Kim Jong Un ‘the world’s most dangerous man’?

Despite Pyongyang’s apparent progress on a warhead, it doesn’t have good enough missile and rocket technology to deliver a nuke – at least not yet, says Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank.

But Kim is determined to develop nuclear weapons by the end of 2017 “at all costs,” according to a high-profile North Korean who defected.

RELATED: US must not overlook North Korea threat

“Following the ruling party congress in May, Kim Jong-un made it a party policy to finish nuclear development within the earliest time possible,” Thae Yong-ho, formerly No. 2 at the North Korean Embassy in London, said in a news briefing, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

00:38 - Source: CNN
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Thae said North Korea is betting that South Korea and the US won’t be able to deter the North’s nuclear ambitions due to domestic politics in both countries.

But Seoul warned Pyongyang against developing nuclear weapons.

“It’s the firm will of South Korea and the international community to not tolerate North Korea’s nuclear development,” a statement from the South Korean Unification Ministry said. “We repeatedly warn that if North Korea continues to develop its nuclear program, it will only face strong sanctions and pressure.

“If North Korea really wishes for the peace in the Korean peninsula and improvement in the ties between the South and North, it will need to come out to the road of denuclearization with sincerity,” the statement said.

K.J Kwon reported from Seoul, and Joshua Berlinger wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Brad Lendon contributed to this report