Nuclear-armed North Korea wants good relations with the US but could consider a change of approach if Washington maintains its sanctions, leader Kim Jong Un warned in his New Year speech Tuesday, January 1, after 12 months of diplomatic rapprochement.
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.
But progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington arguing over what that means.
“If the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world… and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic,” Kim said Tuesday, “we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state.”
He was willing to meet Trump again at any time, he added, and would seek “to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.”
The North is demanding sanctions relief – it is subject to multiple measures over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs – and has condemned US insistence on its nuclear disarmament as “gangster-like”.
Washington is pushing to maintain the measures against the North until its “final, fully verified denuclearization”.
Kim’s speech “expressed his frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations so far,” said former South Korean vice unification minister Kim Hyung-seok.
The North Korean leader “obviously had certain expectations that the US would take certain steps – however rudimentary they are – after the North blew up a nuclear test site and took other steps. But none of them materialized.
“He is faced with this urgent task to improve his ‘socialist economy’ – which is impossible to achieve without lifting of the sanctions.”
In marked contrast with January 1, 2018, when he ordered mass production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, Kim said the North had “declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them,” calling for the US to take “corresponding practical actions.”