The North Korean leadership will be "removed from the global map" if it decides to use its nuclear weapons against either South Korea or the US, Seoul has warned. South Korea's Defence Minister Song Young-moo said the extreme step of launching a nuclear attack would undoubtedly be "suicidal" for Pyongyang.

Speaking against the backdrop of slightly improving ties between the Koreas, Song made it clear that his country will not drop its guard when it comes to the unpredictable Kim Jong-un regime. He said the threat of inflicting a nuclear attack on the North's adversaries is a key propaganda tool for Kim, but added that the reclusive nation is unlikely to carry it out.

"The North Korean regime will probably be removed from the map if it uses developed nuclear weapons against South Korea or the United States," Song told a security conference in Singapore, which was hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"It's an anachronistic idea that North Korea will use nuclear weapons for the unification [of the Koreas]," he added.

Summing up the efforts made by the South Korean government to kick-start a dialogue process with Pyongyang, Seoul's defence minister said, "[It's a] process towards peace and our goal and our basic position that can never be yielded. In particular, I would like to say clearly that the policy of sanctions and pressure for a resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue is meant to draw North Korea into dialogue, not an aim in itself."

Tensions in the divided Korean Peninsula have recently shown signs of easing up after the North's decision to send its athletes to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. The development took place after several days of diplomatic negotiations between the two sides.

The region was recently on the brink of a major conflict, with US and North Korean officials engaged in a bitter war of words. This was further accentuated by military exercises in the region in the past few months.

The American leadership, especially after President Donald Trump's entry into the White House, has repeatedly not ruled out the possibility of a full-blown war in the region.

Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) pictured reacting after the test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 at an undisclosed location - File photo STR/AFP/Getty Images