Kim Jong-un's new year message

by Garry Watts January 3, 2019, 1:02
Kim Jong-un's new year message

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Tuesday he is ready to meet United States (US) President Donald Trump again anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, but warned he may have to take an alternative path if US sanctions and pressure against the country continued.

But with Kim highlighting the need to turn further attention to economic prosperity in his speech, North Korea is also likely to continue to bring up such economic projects as a main agenda - even more than it did a year ago.

The North Korean leader is also indirectly demanding his neighbors to the South push the U.S. and U.N Security Council harder to lift sanctions in exchange for the two countries to resume inter-Korean cooperative projects, Cheong said.

-South Korean alliance with their military cooperation coming under pressure from Pyongyang, Seoul's process for inter-Korean engagement, and Washington's current inability to reach an agreement on cost-sharing for the US military presence in South Korea.

The Trump administration has maintained it will not give ground on sanctions until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, but Pyongyang has called upon the U.S. to alleviate sanctions following moves by Pyongyang to dismantle part of its nuclear program.

If Mr Kim walked away from talks and resumed weapons tests, he would risk undercutting Mr Trump's assertion that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat.

Trump has said a second summit with Kim is likely in January or February, though he wrote on Twitter last month that he was "in no hurry".

This photo taken on December 31, 2018 shows a general view of revelers during a New Year's eve countdown event and fireworks display at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Kim urged North Korea to alleviate power shortages by raising electricity production.

The comments are likely to fuel growing scepticism over whether Pyongyang intends to give up the nuclear weapons program that it has long considered essential to its security.

Should the United States respond with "trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions", Kim said the countries' relations will "develop wonderfully at a fast pace".

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He called last year "a year of stirring events that witnessed a dramatic change unprecedented in the history of national division spanning more than seven decades".

"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.

"North Korea is prepared to strike a move, so it is requesting South Korea to actively convince the United Nations and the USA to alleviate or lift sanctions layered upon the state".

But Kim's speech on Tuesday called for a "complete end" to all joint exercises and slammed the sanctions campaign.

He also emphasized a strong willingness to meet Moon frequently in 2019 as well to move forward discussion on peace and prosperity.

That could mean working with China, South Korea and others in pressing Washington, professor Kim said.

Kim also warned the his remarks that if there was not more progress on the USA side, that North Korea may have to "seek another way".

"North Korea has again restated its position, which remains unchanged", said Go Myong Hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. While Pyongyang conducted no nuclear or missile tests previous year, satellite images have pointed to continued activity at related facilities.

Kim also called for active pursuit of multilateral negotiations among countries involved in the truce agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War to discuss replacing the armistice deal with a peace treaty, which he said will lay the groundwork for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea praised the speech, noting that it was the first time that Mr Kim had uttered the term "complete denuclearisation" in public.

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