Kim Jong-un warns of change in direction on denuclearisation

A look at North Korea's 2018

At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June the two signed a vaguely worded pledge on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. He added that he is willing to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at any time to produce results that the global community would welcome.

He warned that he may have no choice but to seek a new path if Washington "continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure".

In this undated image from video distributed on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, by North Korean broadcaster KRT, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech.

Kim called for South Korea to "completely stop" joint military drills with the United States involving strategic assets, while multilateral negotiations among countries involved in the armistice agreement should be pursued to build a permanent peace regime.

After a flurry of diplomatic activity, in April Kim Jong-un met South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a summit at the inter-Korean border.

The North Korean leader "obviously had certain expectations that the USA would take certain steps - however rudimentary they are - after the North blew up a nuclear test site and took other steps".

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.

He also urged the United States to take "sincere measures and corresponding action" in response to alleged peace initiatives undertaken by the North Korean government.

Kim said he was willing to resume without conditions joint projects with South Korea that were frozen due to political tensions and North Korea's weapon tests.

"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.

Trump did not specify what exactly he meant by North Korea's "great economic potential" but the current North Korean economy is bolstered by approximately 2.6 million modern slaves and what Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation dubbed the "brutal suppression of human potential" and lost human freedoms.

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. Noting that neither would be possible under current sanctions, the New York Post speculated Kim is still interested in driving a wedge between the USA and South Korea by making offers that will push Seoul to demand sanctions relief for the North or unilaterally defy the sanctions.

He said North Korea had shown it was willing to take steps towards denuclearisation, but the United States needed to offer more compromise.

In his address, Kim also conveyed greetings to South Korean people, noting the trend toward reconciliation, which resulted from his meetings with Moon in 2018.

Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have come a long way since the two leaders' exchanges of threats and insults in 2017, against a background of provocative missile tests by North Korea.

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.

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. Kim also met three times with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which boosted his leverage by reintroducing Beijing - Pyongyang's main ally - as a major player in the diplomatic process to resolve the nuclear standoff.

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