Kim Jong-un threatens return to nuclear standoff with US

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un affirmed his apparent commitment to denuclearization during an annual New Year's address Tuesday, but warned that he may need to pursue "a new way" if the United States continues to make "one-sided demands" of Pyongyang.

"Now that the North and the South have promised to seek the path of peace and prosperity, joint military exercises with foreign forces that give rise to tension on the Korean Peninsula should not be allowed anymore, and arms including strategic assets should not be brought in from outside anymore", he said.

The 30-minute speech was also shown live on South Korean television, in a sign of how much ties have improved between the neighbouring countries after several warm meetings between their two leaders over the past year.

The hermit-kingdom despot used his New Year address to stage the intervention.

Kim also said he is willing to reopen the now shuttered inter-Korean industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong and resume a suspended tour program to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast "without any preconditions".

In last year's speech Kim warned "the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time", but also offered to send a team to the forthcoming Winter Olympics in the South.

In this file photo taken on June 11, 2018 North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, right, walks with US President Donald Trump, left, during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.

He also urged the U.S. to completely halt its suspended joint military exercises with ally South Korea. Since then, North Korea has returned remains of USA service members who were killed in North Korea, stopped nuclear missile testing, shut down down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, begun dismantling some key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, and offered the option for inspections.

It was not clear what "new path" the North Korean leader was referring to. Pyongyang over the past months has accused Washington of failing to take corresponding measures following the North's unilateral dismantlement of a nuclear testing ground and suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

Kim emphasized that it is his firm intention to work on building "new relations" with the US, establishing lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and seeking "complete denuclearization", as agreed to in his June summit with Trump, if the USA takes trustworthy and corresponding measures.

Nuclear talks have stalled over U.S. insistence on sanctions until the North takes concrete actions, such as submitting a list of its nuclear weapons.

But progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington arguing over what that means.

According to Sky News, Kim said: "Now that North and South Korea made a decision to take the path of peace and prosperity, we insist that joint military exercises with outside forces should no longer be allowed and deployment of war equipment such as outside strategic assets should be completely stopped".

"I am confident that the US will probe this and unpack what the North Koreans mean", Carlin said.

Since the first-ever summit between the US and North Korea, little progress has been made as Pyongyang wants corresponding measures for the steps it has taken and Washington asks for more concrete steps before granting any quid pro quo.

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

Since the Trump-Kim summit though, less progress has been made than at least optimists had been hoping for.

Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted the timing of the speech. The North is pushing in turn for measures from the USA, like the easing of economic sanctions.

"My sense is that Kim wants to portray himself as a legitimate leader in the global community both superior to Moon Jae-in and an equal to Donald Trump", Maxwell wrote. China has been the key benefactor for North Korea's economy.


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