SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK:In his New Year address, Kim said he was willing to meet US President Donald Trump again at any time to achieve denuclearisation, and urged Washington to take unspecified corresponding action to speed up the stalled process.
North Korea, however, would have “no option but to explore a new path in order to protect our sovereignty” if the United States “miscalculates our people’s patience, forces something upon us and pursues sanctions and pressure without keeping a promise it made in front of the world,” Kim said in his nationally televised address.
The comments are likely to fuel growing scepticism over whether Pyongyang intends to give up the nuclear weapons programme that it has long considered essential to its security.
Kim and Trump vowed to work towards denuclearisation and build a “lasting and stable” peace regime at their landmark summit in Singapore in June, but little progress has been made since and satellite images have indicated continued activity at North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.
Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War in response to its initial, unilateral steps toward denuclearisation, including dismantling its only known nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.
US officials say those steps can be easily reversed and have not been verified, and Washington has slapped additional economic sanctions on the impoverished country. Washington halted some large-scale military exercises with Seoul, although smaller drills continued.
Kim called for South Korea to “completely stop” joint military drills with the United States involving strategic assets, while multilateral negotiations should be pursued to build a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
“Now that North and South Korea decided 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,” Kim said.