Kim Jong Un's Fireside Chat Shows North Korea Bid for Acceptance

Kim Jong Un's Fireside Chat Shows North Korea Bid for Acceptance

The North Korean leader on Tuesday reiterated his determination to achieve complete denuclearization and also called for economic development in his annual New Year's address, stressing the need to strengthen the North's defense. It is designed for domestic consumption, somewhat like the State of the Union address in the United States, but is closely watched by foreign observers for clues to the dictatorship's attitude and intentions for the coming year.

In his speech, Mr Kim said the United States 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".

While the North has stopped missile and nuclear testing, there's been little indication that Pyongyang is working towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation as the USA has called upon it to do. "He's exuding confidence that his country isn't hung up over the USA, that they can still prosper without Washington".

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump shake hands during their first meeting in Singapore in June 2018.

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest: "Kim Jong Un's message to the world today is simple: Pyongyang is clearly willing to engage in dialogue while working towards denuclearization with Washington and Seoul - but on its terms".

North Korea's leader made a veiled threat yesterday of a return to nuclear brinkmanship if the United States refused to lift sanctions.

Kim also reiterated his "strong will" and the North Korean government's "unchanged" position to pursue better relations with the U.S. and to seek complete denuclearization. "A deadlock in US-North Korea talks is likely to continue for now".

Kim said inter-Korean relations have now entered a "completely new phase", and he is willing to resume key joint economic projects with the South - the factory park in Kaesong and tours to Mt. Kumgang - without conditions.

That could suggest Kim wants the resumption of the two projects as sanctions relief from the U.S. Neither of those would be possible for South Korea unless sanctions are removed.

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".

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. He suggested the US consider taking the offer Kim appeared to put on the table Tuesday morning. "Discussions on reducing or eliminating that arsenal come later", Mount said in an email.

Meanwhile, Trump used his New Year's message to brag about the "accomplishments" of his adminstatrion so far.

South Korea welcomed Kim's address, with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae saying the speech reflects his wish for the development of inter-Korean ties and Pyongyang-Washington relations. The Trump administration fears that if sanctions are loosened now, the maximum pressure needed to compel denuclearization will never be restored.

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.

"As the speech did not include any new, dramatic suggestion from North Korea, I think there is now a higher possibility of the second North Korea-US summit being delayed", he said.

Since the first-ever summit between the USA 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.

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