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

Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Trump could meet for a second summit in 2019

"Now that North and South Korea decided on the path of peace and prosperity, we insist that joint military exercises with outside forces should no longer be allowed and deployment of war weapons such as outside strategic assets should be completely stopped", Kim said. He said he was willing to resume joint projects with the South, including reopening the Kaesong industrial park and Mount Kumgang resort, without conditions. In exchange, the United States would have to offer major inducements, including sanctions relief.

Duyeon Kim, from the Center for a New American Security, told CNN that the New Year's message was "confident" and "normal", but added that the message to the US was clear: "He still sent a very firm word of caution, bordering a nuanced threat, that if Washington doesn't keep its Singapore promise and continues with sanctions, then he has Plan B in mind and will go his separate way". Private analysts have accused North Korea of continuing nuclear and missile development, citing details from commercial satellite imagery. "That may no longer be true, raising the risk that the White House feels cheated rather than just stonewalled".

The two leaders traded personal insults - Trump mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man", who in turn called him a "mentally deranged USA dotard" - and threats of war as fears of conflict rose. US officials have repeatedly called for the stringent enforcement of sanctions on the country until its "final, fully verified denuclearization". 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.

Kim also emphasized the development of the North Korean economy and, without elaborating, mentioned nuclear power as part of the country's plans to boost electricity production.

He also said he was ready to meet Mr Trump again at any time.

At the time, the two leaders signed a vaguely-worded pledge on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington arguing over their agreement's interpretation.

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The two sides have clashed over the pace and sequence of talks, with North Korea demanding relief from worldwide sanctions and the USA seeking more steps toward disarmament.

The North has also bristled at US demands to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal.

Kim has said he still stands behind the denuclearization commitment he made to President Trump during the pair's historic Singapore summit, but little progress has been made since June. The North used a blunt statement last month reiterated its traditional stance on denuclearization, saying it will never unilaterally give up its weapons unless Washington removes what Pyongyang describes as a nuclear threat.

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

Although Pyongyang did not conduct nuclear or missile tests past year, satellite images have pointed to continued activity at the North's related facilities.

"We will never tolerate outside interferences and interventions meant to block our way toward reconciliation, unity and the unification of our people, while trying to make our relations scummy to their states and interests", the North Korean leader said, adding that "significant" agreements achieved during 2018's three inter-Korean summits could be "regarded as non-aggression treaty".

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