Kim Jong Un was up bright and early New Year's Day to make his first announcement of 2017: that North Korea is in the "final stages" of development of a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile and a test launch is imminent, ABC Australia reports. In his address on state TV from Pyongyang, Kim said his country would keep ramping up its nuclear weapons program until the US backs out of holding yearly military exercises in South Korea, and he reiterated previous claims that preemptive nuclear strikes were on the table, per the Wall Street Journal. "Research and development of cutting-edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage," Kim said, per ABC. Mixed with this ominous message was Kim's revelation that "I have spent the whole year with regrets and a guilty conscience" for not reaching certain goals, spurring a promise to "devote all of myself to the people," per NK News.
Although CNN notes Kim's speech was "full of the North's usual self-congratulatory, lofty proclamations and anti-Western rhetoric," it also adds there may be reason to pay closer attention to Kim's words this time around. North Korea stayed busy on the weapons experimentation front throughout 2016, despite 10 years of UN sanctions: It test-launched ballistic missiles at what ABC calls an "unprecedented rate," put a satellite into space in February (believed to be a test of long-range ballistic missile capabilities), and pulled off its fifth nuclear test in September. Experts have estimated that North Korea's timeline for being able to mount a weapon on an ICBM that could reach US shores is probably still two to three years away, but per CNN, a "high-profile North Korean" defector has said Kim is set on developing nukes by year's end "at all costs." (Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)