The "nuclear button" is a figurative term referring to the power to use nuclear weapons. "Pushing the nuclear button" refers to actually using them. The actual procedure for using such weapons is more complex than simply pushing a button. The "nuclear button" may be transferred to another official due to political changes or the incapacitation of a person currently in control of it.
North Korean announcement
On January 1, 2018, Kim Jong Un announced during his New Year speech "the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office" in order to make the United States aware that he is able to attack the country at will. US President Trump responded via Twitter on the following day:
Donald J. Trump via Twitter @realDonaldTrump
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!
2 Jan 2018
- Nuclear briefcase, the non-figurative authorization mechanism for the nuclear weapons of various countries
- Pakistan's Zardari hands nuclear button to PM
- Nuclear button chaos behind Reagan, BBC
- Chernomyrdin to Control 'Nuclear Button' for Yeltsin's Surgery, New York Times
- Orjoux, Alanne (1 January 2018). "Kim Jong Un says the nuclear button is always on his desk". CNN. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "Trump boasts of bigger 'nuclear button' than North Korea's". Fox News. 2 January 2018.