Kim warns North Korea could consider change of tack

Kim warns North Korea could consider change of tack

Kim warns North Korea could consider change of tack

During his annual televised New Year's speech, the North Korean leader said he hopes a follow-up summit meeting will "produce an outcome welcomed by the worldwide community".

The televised speech is closely watched as a rare public appearance for the young leader, setting the tone for his domestic and foreign policies for the year ahead.

Kim renewed his calls for a complete end to joint military drills between South Korea and the US and demanded that no foreign military strategic assets be brought onto the Korean Peninsula, saying that they are a "source" of tensions in the region. USA officials have repeatedly called for the stringent enforcement of sanctions on the country until its "final, fully verified denuclearization".

President Trump and Kim Jong Un met in June for a much-ballyhooed summit aimed at achieving a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

"If the United States does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world. and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic", Kim said on Tuesday, "we may be left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests".

Kim also reiterated his "strong will" and the North Korean government's "unchanged" position to pursue better relations with the United States and to seek complete denuclearization.

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.

But for most of his 30-minute speech, he focused on North Korea's economy and said he stands ready to resume projects with South Korea and restart operations at a jointly run factory park in the border town of Kaesong. The drills were scaled back in 2018 to encourage North Korea's turn towards diplomacy. The two sides have clashed over the pace and sequence of talks, with North Korea demanding relief from worldwide sanctions and the USA seeking more steps toward disarmament.

Kim's speech "expressed his frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations so far", said former South Korean vice unification minister Kim Hyung-seok.

Kim used his New Year's speech a year ago to start a newfound diplomatic approach with Seoul and Washington, which led to his meetings with Moon and Trump. "Discussions on reducing or eliminating that arsenal come later", Mount said in an email. North Korea seemingly seeks to include China, one of its closest allies, in the talks for more leverage, experts have noted.

South Korea welcomed Kim's address, with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae saying the speech reflects his wish for the development of inter-Korean ties and Pyongyang-Washington relations.

Accepting a cap now and working toward denuclearization later, as Mount advised, could be taken by the North Koreans as a signal of weakness because the US has insisted on swift and complete denuclearization.

In the clip, Trump claimed his government had taken steps to improve United States relations with North Korea.

South Korea's presidential Blue House responded positively to Kim's address. The moves - an about-face from the weapons tests and threats in 2017 - were telegraphed in Kim's previous New Year's speech, in which he offered to discuss participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In this year's speech, broadcast on state television early on Tuesday, Mr Kim said "if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world. and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic, we may be left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests".

But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearization that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.

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