Published: Wed, January 02, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

NK leader talks of denuclearization, economic development in New Year address

NK leader talks of denuclearization, economic development in New Year address

It was not clear what "new path" the North Korean leader was referring to.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reaffirmed on Tuesday his resolve to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but warned he may have to take an alternative path if the United States continued to force Pyongyang into unilateral action.

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

Abe, for his part, has said he is willing to meet Kim, though he has insisted that any summit must lead to a resolution of the regime's abductions of Japanese citizens. Noting that neither would be possible under current sanctions, the New York Post speculated Kim is still interested in driving a wedge between the us and South Korea by making offers that will push Seoul to demand sanctions relief for the North or unilaterally defy the sanctions.

Kim Jong Un says he is ready to sit down again with President Donald Trump - but also warned the United States against imposing more sanctions.

"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", Mr Kim said, "we may be left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests".

Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War in response to its unilateral steps toward denuclearization - including a moratorium on atomic tests, longer-range missile launches and closure of key sites.

He also called for an end to joint military drills between the US and South Korea and said no strategic military assets should be brought onto the Korean peninsula.

Kim directed part of his message at neighbor South Korea, urging it to ditch joint wargames with the USA for the sake of reconciliation.

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Vote will still go ahead in the rest of the country, with results announced on 15 January and the inauguration three days later. The country's election commission then moved the date from December 23 to December 30 after a fire destroyed voting equipment.

"We will never tolerate outside interferences and interventions meant to block our way toward reconciliation, unity and unification of our people while trying to make our relations scummy to their states and interests", he said.

Kim's speech comes after year of diplomatic surprises by the reclusive leader, including an unprecedented summit with Trump and three meetings with Moon. There are views that North Korea wants a quick second summit because it thinks it can win major concessions from Trump that they probably couldn't from lower level USA officials, who are more adamant about the North committing to inspections and verification.

"Up until even last year, he stood and read the New Year's speech in a rather stiff and strong tone", Cheong said. North Korea seemingly seeks to include China, one of its closest allies, in the talks for more leverage, experts have noted. They have also criticized South Korea for not taking the initiative in cross-border exchanges, saying it cares too much about what others say.

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest: "Kim Jong Un's message to the world today is simple: Pyongyang is clearly willing to engage in dialogue while working towards denuclearization with Washington and Seoul - but on its terms".

While Kim's address included conditions for further talks with the US, Seoul welcomed the speech as a sign of the North Korean leader's willingness to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve denuclearization.

This year, Kim said inter-Korean relations have entered a "completely new phase", and offered to resume key inter-Korean economic projects banned under worldwide and South Korean sanctions, without conditions.

"Chairman Kim's firm commitment is expected to have a positive effect on resolving the Korean Peninsula issue smoothly in the new year", Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.

Kim stressed that there would be significant progress on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula if the United States takes corresponding action.

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