Newsday, Kim Jong-un warns of 'change in direction'

Newsday, Kim Jong-un warns of 'change in direction'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with President Donald Trump into 2019, but also warns Washington not to test North Koreans' patience with sanctions and pressure.

Kim met US President Donald Trump to discuss denuclearisation in June 2018 but with few results so far.

Kim also sent a letter to Moon on Sunday, expressing his willingness to meet his South Korean counterpart "often" in the coming year to move their peace process and denuclearization talks forward, according to the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Relations between Washington and Pyongyang have come a long way since the two leaders' exchanges of threats and insults in 2017, against a background of provocative missile tests by North Korea.

"While the worldwide community's perception of North Korea has considerably improved after the Singapore summit and three intra-Korean summits, Pyongyang has not yet received any concrete benefits from the United States, nor from South Korea and China", Cheng noted, adding that "the South Korean government is certainly happy and ready to offer economic aid to Pyongyang".

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

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Over the past year, the North destroyed a nuclear testing site in Punggye-ri in the presence of worldwide reporters, returned the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War and released detained United States citizens.

But while Kim Jong Un says he wants to continue along the diplomatic path, the clear hint is that without some response from the United States, the rapprochement witnessed past year may go into reverse. Instead of standing on a podium, Kim delivered a speech sitting on a couch in a Western-style room, illustrating an image of an approachable leader in a fireside chat.

Highlighting the difference between what Kim said and what President Trump thought he said, Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, tweeted: "this is unsustainable for much longer and we are on a collision course".

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The North is subject to multiple sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programmes.

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

Thus, the speech reaffirmed the negotiating lines since Mr Trump and Mr Kim's unprecedented summit in Singapore, with the two sides clashing over the pace and sequence of disarmament steps and sanctions relief. The North is pushing in turn for measures from the United States, like the easing of economic sanctions.

The BBC's Laura Bicker in Seoul says this could mean that North Korea is waiting for the U.S. to act in 2019 and unless it does, the current pause on nuclear weapons testing could be over.

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".

In his meetings with Trump and Moon, Kim signed vague statements calling for the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. Private analysts have accused North Korea of continuing nuclear and missile development, citing details from commercial satellite imagery.

As for Japan, it remains unclear if Kim is truly open to a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, though he hinted past year at the possibility "at an appropriate time", according to South Korea's Moon.

Kim Joon-hyung, a professor of worldwide politics at Handong Global University, said one possible scenario was the North's dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, as offered at an inter-Korean summit in September in Pyongyang, and acknowledging some facilities in return for eased sanctions, such as a partial restart of inter-Korean economic projects.

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