Kim Jong-un warns of change in direction on denuclearisation

Kim warns North Korea could consider change of tack
Kim pledges denuclearization, but warns N. Korea will seek ‘a new way’ if US flouts promises
Author

02 January, 2019

North Korea, however, would have "no option but to explore a new path in order to protect our sovereignty" if the United States "miscalculates our people's patience, forces something upon us and pursues sanctions and pressure without keeping a promise it made in front of the world", Kim said in his nationally televised address.

At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, the two signed a vaguely worded pledge on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. He also added he is willing to meet US President Donald Trump at any time to produce results the worldwide community would welcome.

The New Year speech is a key fixture in the North Korean political calander, setting the agenda for the year to come. -North Korea denuclearization talks remain at an impasse months after a landmark June summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore.

In his new year speech, he called on the United States to halt its joint military exercises with South Korea and to refrain from deploying military assets in the country.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un walk from their lunch at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore.

Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists saw the Kim speech overall as a counter-offer in what the North Koreans see as ongoing negotiations over how much of their nuclear capability they will give up, and the rewards they will demand in exchange.

In that speech, Kim said he had a "nuclear button" on his desk with weapons capable of reaching the United States, but he also opened a path to dialogue with Seoul and expressed willingness to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

He also said he was ready to meet Mr Trump again at any time.

There was no immediate comment from the White House and asked for a reaction, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said: "We decline the opportunity to comment."

In marked contrast with January 1, 2018, when he ordered mass production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, Kim said the North had "declared that we would no longer produce, test, use or spread our nuclear arsenal", calling for the United States to take "corresponding measures".

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That could suggest Kim wants the resumption of the two projects as sanctions relief from the U.S. Neither of those would be possible for South Korea unless sanctions are removed.

Dressed in a Western style suit, Kim spoke from a dark leather armchair in an office lined with packed bookshelves and paintings of his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather Kim Il Sung - a setting that resembled more intimate addresses from the White House by the USA president.

The North Korean leader is asking Washington to take the next step to break the stalemate, such as allowing the reopening of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, analysts said.

Last year's speech was seen as especially significant because it presaged North Korea's diplomatic opening in 2018, a shift to better relations with South Korea and a more positive global outlook that appears set to continue in 2019, judging from Kim's latest address.

It came after a year of high tensions when the North made rapid progress with its weapons development, carrying out its sixth nuclear test - by far its most powerful to date - and launching rockets capable of reaching the entire United States mainland.

Mr Kim also met three times with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which boosted his leverage by reintroducing Beijing - Pyongyang's main ally - as a major player in the diplomatic process to resolve the nuclear standoff.

The North is demanding sanctions relief - it is subject to multiple measures over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program - and has condemned USA insistence on its nuclear disarmament as "gangster-like".

Washington and Pyongyang have yet to reschedule a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean officials after the North cancelled it at the last minute in November.

It is thought the North Koreans will push for a quick second summit, as they like their chances of winning concessions from Mr Trump that they might not get from lower-level officials.


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