North Korea warns of 'new path' if United States 'continues to break promises'

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 in North Korea. North Korean leader Kim says he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with

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 in North Korea. North Korean leader Kim says he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with

"Kim Jong-un drew from that playbook in his speech.by offering to take actions that might be popular in South Korea but would require U.S. consent to lift sanctions".

It was Washington's first response to Kim's annual New Year's Day speech, which was watched closely for a hint of the future of stalled denuclearization talks between the North and the US.

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.

Specifically, Kim said North Korea would resume two now halter construction projects in partnership with North Korea, Kaesong industrial park and Mount Kumgang tourist resort.

"I'll endeavor towards a result that will be welcomed by the worldwide community", Kim said of the potential second meeting between the two leaders.

Although he warned he could explore a "new path", Kim's restrained tone indicates his willingness to maintain the momentum for dialogue with the USA, experts say.

Over the weekend, the North Korean leader sent a personal letter to President Moon Jae-in in what appeared to be a friendly gesture, expressing his intent to work together with South Korea to resolve the denuclearization issue.

The North has dismantled some testing facilities but there are allegations it is continuing its weapons programme. "So, Kim is not so much making any new commitments so much as laying the groundwork for the United States to take the blame for any lack of progress".

And it has been this immediate issue, rather than the long-term question about American troops, that bogged down negotiators from both countries towards the end of past year.

"To summarise North Korea's foreign policy strategy this year, it is to pressure the United States, to lead South Korea and to strengthen ties with China and Russian Federation", said Kim Heung Kyu, a professor of political science and diplomacy at Ajou University.

The North is demanding sanctions relief - it is subject to multiple measures over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes - and has condemned U.S. insistence on its nuclear disarmament as "gangster-like".

Kim said that North Korea had already pledged not to make, use or spread nuclear weapons and had taken concrete steps to implement this.

The core problem has always been that Mr Kim ultimately wants the withdrawal of 28,000 United States soldiers from South Korea in exchange for giving up his nuclear weapons. But other experts, including former South Korean nuclear envoy Lee Soo-hyuk, were skeptical that would happen given the deadlocked bilateral talks, the Sino-U.S. trade war and Trump's dislike for multinational mechanisms.

But Kim's speech on Tuesday called for a "complete end" to all joint exercises and slammed the sanctions campaign. He said he was willing to resume joint projects with the South, including reopening the Kaesong industrial park and Mount Kumgang resort, without conditions.

At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, the two signed a vaguely worded pledge on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

He also called for an end to joint military drills between the United States and South Korea and said no strategic military assets should be brought onto the Korean peninsula.

Since then, the North has halted nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Kim's remarks were "apparently created to revive the momentum of the negotiations", South Korea's centrist Hankook Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial Wednesday.

Mr Kim's remarks also appeared meant to appeal to neighbours such as China and South Korea, whom the U.S. needs to help maintain sanctions pressure.

"I don't see that happening because the United States wants to secure its position in the region for the deepening US-China rivalry", Professor Robert Nagy, an worldwide relations specialist at global Christian University in Tokyo, said.

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