Kim warns North Korea could consider change of tack

01 January, 2019, 16:51 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk after lunch at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore

Kim called for South Korea to "completely stop" joint military drills with the United States involving strategic assets, while multilateral negotiations should be pursued to build a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

"We are willing to resume the Kaesong industrial complex and tour program to Kumgangsan without any preconditions or price, in consideration of South Korean businessmen who once worked at the complex and their hard situation, along with the hopes of our South Korean comrades who seek to visit our people's famous mountain", Kim said in his speech. In exchange, the United States would have to offer major inducements, including sanctions relief.

The New Year speech is a key fixture in the North Korean political calander, setting the agenda for the year to come. North Korea is known to have developed at least three nuclear plants, including a five-megawatt reactor at its main Yongbyon complex producing weapons-grade plutonium, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry. "That may no longer be true, raising the risk that the White House feels cheated rather than just stonewalled".

Kim also reiterated his "strong will" and the North Korean government's "unchanged" position to pursue better relations with the USA and to seek complete denuclearization. US officials have repeatedly called for the stringent enforcement of sanctions on the country until its "final, fully verified denuclearization".

Mr Kim congratulated himself on his diplomatic activities during 2018, including meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Kim also emphasized the development of the North Korean economy and, without elaborating, mentioned nuclear power as part of the country's plans to boost electricity production.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned there will be consequences if the United States "continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people".

He was willing to meet Trump again at any time, he added, "to produce a result that will be welcomed by the global community".

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"Kim Jong Un simply reaffirmed what we already know: that North Korea considers progress on denuclearization conditional on Washington providing sanctions relief", said Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. State Department official who worked on North Korean issues.

The North has also bristled at US demands to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal.

The hardening stalemate has fuelled doubts on whether Kim will ever voluntarily relinquish the nuclear weapons and missiles he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

They met another two times after that but the most historic summit of 2018 was the North Korean leader's meeting with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June. The North used a blunt statement last month to reiterate its traditional stance on denuclearization, saying it will never unilaterally give up its weapons unless Washington removes what Pyongyang describes as a nuclear threat.

Seoul and Washington are in a security alliance and the U.S. stations 28,500 troops in the South.

Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Trump could meet for a second summit in 2019.

Although Pyongyang did not conduct nuclear or missile tests a year ago, satellite images have pointed to continued activity at the North's related facilities.

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