North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Tuesday that he is committed to denuclearization, but isn’t willing to enter into an agreement with the United States unless negotiations pick up.
“I’ll endeavor towards a result that will be welcomed by the international community,” Kim said of the potential second meeting between the two leaders.
North Korea, however, would have “no choice but to defend our country’s sovereignty and supreme interest, and find a new way to settle peace on our peninsula,” if the U.S. “misinterprets our people’s patience, and makes one-sided demands and continues down the path of sanctions and pressure on our republic,” Kim said.
North Korea has said that the limits it has put on its nuclear program to date should be rewarded with the removal of sanctions against the nation. The U.S. has countered that the sanctions will remain in place until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons.
Adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security Duyeon Kim said Kim “sent a very firm word of caution, bordering a nuanced threat, that if Washington doesn’t keep its Singapore promise and continues with sanctions, then he has Plan B in mind and will go his separate way. He’s exuding confidence that his country isn’t hung up over the U.S., that they can still prosper without Washington.”
Kim said in his speech that it is up to the U.S. to build on the foundation that has been achieved.
“We have announced that we will not produce, test nor proliferate any more nuclear weapons, and have taken practical measures accordingly,” he said. “If the United States responds to our preemptive and autonomous efforts with credible measures and corresponding actions, the relationship between the two countries will accelerate for the better.”
Robert Carlin, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, said North Korea last promised not to make new nuclear weapons in 1992, according to The Washington Post.
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“What we have is the (North Korean) leader, on the record, telling us the North Koreans will not, have not produced any more nuclear weapons,” he said. “I wouldn’t dismiss it. I don’t know what it means exactly, but Kim said it, and we should take it seriously and probe it.”
Although North Korea did not conduct weapons tests in 2018, dismantled a launch site and destroyed the tunnels at its former nuclear test site, it has also continued weapons development.
Experts have also cautioned that all moves taken by North Korea could be easily reversed.
“They think they can outsmart the Americans in this regard,” said Victor Gao, an expert on international relations in Beijing, according to CBS.
Although the 2019 address indicated that the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea has yet to fully change, Kim’s tone was very different than in his 2018 address.
At the beginning of 2018, Kim said “Our country’s nuclear forces are capable of thwarting and countering any nuclear threats from the United States, and they constitute a powerful deterrent that prevents it from starting an adventurous war,” according to a text of his 2018 remarks on the website of the National Committee of North Korea.
“In no way would the United States dare to ignite a war against me and our country,” he said then.
“The whole of its mainland is within the range of our nuclear strike and the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time; the United States needs to be clearly aware that this is not merely a threat but a reality.”
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