North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he’s ending the suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests put in situ during talks with the US.Mr. Kim also said his country would soon introduce “a new strategic weapon”.
But he left a door open for dialogue, and said the scope of any testing would depend upon the US’s “attitude”.The momentum of the past few years has stalled, as Washington refuses to lift sanctions until Pyongyang fully abandons its nuclear program.
The North conducted several smaller weapons tests late in 2019, in what was seen as an effort to pressure the US into making concessions.
But the self-declared moratorium on nuclear tests and tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that would reach the US mainland had been one among the foundations of the negotiations with Washington.
What did Mr. Kim say?
Mr. Kim’s comments came at the top of a four-day gathering of party leaders in Pyongyang, an unusual event for this point of the year.
On 1 January, state media reported him as saying North Korea was not bound by the self-declared moratorium because the US continued joint military drills with South Korea and had stepped up their sanctions.
“Under such condition, there’s no ground for us to urge unilaterally sure to the commitment anymore, the commitment to which there’s no opposite party, and this is often chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” press agency KCNA quoted him as saying.
He threatened that “the world will witness a replacement strategic weapon” from the North “in the near future” while giving no further details.Mr. Kim’s comments to the party meeting also admitted that sanctions have hit the economy and were unlikely to be lifted soon, warning that North Koreans will need to “tighten our belts”.
The North Korean leader didn’t, however, mention Donald Trump or South Korea by name, seen by observers as a toning-down of language compared to the aggressive rhetoric of recent months.
The comments were “notable for falling in need of directly tearing up the April 2018 moratorium on a long-range missile and nuclear tests,” Chad O’Carroll of analyst site NK News told the BBC.”Instead, Mr. Kim’s remarks implied that such resumed testing is going to be contingent on US actions within the weeks and months ahead.”
Why did he say it?
Mr. Kim’s published comments appear to possess taken the place of his usual New Year’s Day Day speech. Previous addresses have signaled changes in policy direction to Pyongyang’s international adversaries and this year’s comments appear to possess an identical role.
“Kim Jong-un knows that President Trump faces an election campaign soon which renewed North Korean ICBM and nuclear testing would be a serious policy embarrassment for the White House,” said Mr. O’Carroll.
“The remarks delivered today communicate an easy message to Washington: provide us with major concessions soon if you would like to avoid long-range missile tests during the election campaign.”
There is little indication the White House will concede thereto pressure, he adds, so “we appear headed toward significant turbulence within the year ahead”.
How did the US respond?
As he headed into a replacement Year event in Florida, Mr. Trump told reporters that he and Mr. Kim “did sign a contract, talking about denuclearisation”.”I think he’s a person of his word,” he said.US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo said he hoped the North would choose peace over war.
“If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump, that’s deeply disappointing,” Mr. Pompeo told US broadcaster CBS.
“He made those commitments to President Trump in exchange for President Trump agreeing to not conduct large-scale military exercises. We’ve lived up to our commitments. We still hold out hope that he will live up to his also.”