Nuclear: Kim Warns US Against Sanctions On North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivers a New Year's message on the national TV.

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 U.S., but also an indirect appeal to Washington for an alleviation of the sanctions.

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. Washington and Pyongyang appear to have interpreted what exactly this means differently. "He's exuding confidence that his country isn't hung up over the US, that they can still prosper without Washington".

"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 might be "compelled to explore a new path" to defend its sovereignty if the United States "seeks to force something upon us unilaterally. and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure", Kim said in his nationally televised address.

Kim also reiterated his "strong will" and the North Korean government's "unchanged" position to pursue better relations with the USA and to seek complete denuclearization. He also made a nationalistic call urging for stronger inter-Korean cooperation and said the North is ready to resume operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North's Diamond Mountain resort. The drills were scaled back in 2018 to encourage North Korea's turn towards diplomacy.

He also said the US and South Korea should no longer carry out joint military exercises - which have been largely halted since the Singapore meeting - calling such drills "a source of tension".

Neither of those are now possible for South Korea unless sanctions on the North are removed. He suggested the USA consider taking the offer Kim appeared to put on the table Tuesday morning. "Discussions on reducing or eliminating that arsenal come later", said Mount.

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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. North Korea spent 2018 trying versions of the stonewalling tactics and tricks it has used successfully against previous USA administrations, including supposedly historic concessions that actually did little to reduce its research capabilities or could be easily reversed.

Much of Kim's speech Tuesday focused on North Korea's moribund economy, saying that improving people's lives was his top priority and tackling energy shortages was an urgent task.

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.

It is thought the North Koreans will push for a quick second summit, as they like their chances of winning concessions from Mr Trump that they might not get from lower-level officials.

South Korea's presidential Blue House responded positively to Kim's address.

In a speech broadcast by the North's state television, he said there would be faster progress on denuclearisation if Washington took corresponding action.

Seoul and Pyongyang have pursued several reconciliation initiatives in recent months, including projects to upgrade the North's outdated rail infrastructure and reconnect it with the South. 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" US president.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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