Kim Jong-un warns of change in direction on denuclearisation
01 January, 2019, 16:51 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
On the front page of the ruling party's flagship newspaper was Kim touring monuments to capitalism, stepping out of a Chinese jet and smiling while shaking hands with the "imperialist" USA president.
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. North Korea seems determined in 2019 to receive some sort of sanctions relief - or what Kim referred to as "corresponding measures" - as part of any bargain with the Trump Administration."Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security: "As expected, he didn't rock the boat, clearly being mindful of the diplomatic process with Washington and didn't brag about his nuclear might".
According to Kim Dong-yub, this is not only a message to South Korea, asking it to determine its North Korea policy independently without the involvement of the United States, but also an indirect appeal to Washington for an alleviation of the sanctions.
Kim also wants the Trump administration to stop carrying out military exercises with South Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump hailed his June 12 summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-un as a breakthrough, and has expressed interest in a second meeting.
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.
In a jab at the South's alliance with the U.S., Kim also said Washington should continue to halt its joint military exercises with Seoul and not deploy strategic military assets to the South.
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought a new look to his New Year's address - ditching the formalities of a podium and microphone bank to speak from a plush leather chair in front of a wooden mantle piece.
A meeting between North Korean officials and USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo was cancelled by the North at the last minute in November and has yet to be rescheduled.
But he also offered to send a team to the forthcoming Winter Olympics in the South - opening the way for the South's dovish President Moon Jae-In to play the role of peace broker.
The setting, which mimics the one favored by Chinese President Xi Jinping for his New Year address, marks a departure from previous years when Kim stood before an assembly hall packed with officials.
"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.
"He appeared more confident than ever, emboldened by some of the progress he made past year, which also implies he thinks he has the upper edge in the negotiations with the United States as a nuclear-armed state", said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
Kim devoted a large chunk of his speech to reiterating this focus on rebuilding his country's tattered economy, calling for increasing electricity generation - including via the use of nuclear energy - and other development projects. 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.
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That performance was followed by an inaugural address by Kim Yun-hyok, the North's deputy rail minister. There was a feeling of nervous excitement on the South Korean train as it left the capital Seoul.
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