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(4th LD) N.K. leader says no reason to keep moratorium on ICBM tests, warns of 'new strategic weapon'

All News 12:25 January 01, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS experts' analysis, details in details throughout)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Jan. 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he sees no reason to stick to his commitment to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests and will soon show off a "new strategic weapon," accusing the United States of stalling for time for its own political interests, according to state media Wednesday.

Still, however, Kim appeared to have left room for negotiations as he also said during a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party that how much the North will bolster its "nuclear deterrent" will depend on the future U.S. attitude.

Kim said it was part of his efforts to build confidence with the U.S. that he suspended tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), but Washington responded with joint military exercises with South Korea and more sanctions on Pyongyang.

"Under such condition, there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer, the commitment to which there is no opposite party, and this is chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," the KCNA quoted Kim as saying during the party meeting.

Kim also said the North should "more actively push forward the project for developing strategic weapons" and "the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future," according to the KCNA.

The DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes the North will choose peace.

"It remains the case that we hope Chairman Kim will take a different course," Pompeo told Fox News. "We're hopeful that Chairman Kim will make the right decision, (that) he'll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war. ... I saw that reporting. I hope he doesn't go in that direction."

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang on Dec. 31, 2019, in this photo disclosed by the official Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 1. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Kim said the U.S.' "real intention is to seek its own political and diplomatic interests while wasting time away under the signboard of dialogue and negotiations and at the same time keep sanctions" to weaken his country.

He also accused the U.S. of taking a "brigandish attitude" in their negotiations with demands hurting "the fundamental interests of our state." Even if sanctions relief is necessary for economic development, the North "can never sell our dignity," Kim said.

"We can not give up the security of our future just for the visible economic results and happiness and comfort in reality now that hostile acts and nuclear threat against us are increasing," Kim said, according to the KCNA.

"We further hardened our resolution never to barter the security and dignity of the state and the safety of its future for anything else," he said.

The North has threatened to take a "new way" if Washington fails to offer concessions in their denuclearization talks before the end of last year, hinting that Pyongyang would end diplomacy and revert to provocative acts.

Kim warned of a "shocking actual action" to make the U.S. pay for "abusing denuclearization talks, saying that the "powerful nuclear deterrent" capable of containing threats from the U.S. will be placed on "constant alert." He, however, hinted that Pyongyang has not completely abandoned talks, saying that its future action could depend upon the U.S. attitude.

"We will reliably put on constant alert the powerful nuclear deterrent capable of containing the nuclear threats from the U.S. and guaranteeing our long-term security, noting that the scope and depth of bolstering our deterrent will be properly coordinated depending on the U.S. future attitude to the DPRK," Kim was quoted as saying.

Denuclearization talks have been stalled since the second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump ended without an agreement due to wide differences over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization measures and Washington's sanctions relief.

Pyongyang has wanted major sanctions relief to bolster its economy in exchange for closing the key nuclear test complex in Yongbyon. Washington has called for more denuclearization steps. The two sides met again in October in Stockholm but failed to narrow their differences.

Observers say that North Korea could resume tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles in protest of stalled denuclearization talks. Adding to the speculation, the North conducted what appears to be an engine test at its west coast satellite launch site last month.

North Korean last test-fired an ICBM in late 2017. It conducted its last and sixth nuclear test in September of the same year.

In April 2018, North Korea said it had completed its nuclear armament, declaring a moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests. About two months after the symbolic gesture, Kim held his first-ever summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Pyongyang has claimed that it has taken substantive denuclearization steps over the past years and asked for Washington's corresponding measures, including security guarantees and lifting or easing of sanctions crippling its economy.

An ICBM test would represent a blow to Trump as he has boasted of its suspension as one of his great diplomatic achievements. Trump has warned North Korea against such provocations, saying it could lose everything, to which Pyongyang said it has no more to lose.

Experts said that North Korea might conduct tests of an upgraded version of an ICBM or submarine-launched ballistic missile as a "new strategic weapon" that Kim has threatened to show to the world in the near future.

In October, the North said that it successfully tested a new-type SLBM, boasting that the success "ushered in a new phase" in its self-defense capabilities.

Some said that the North appeared to be threatening to cross a "red line" that Washington has apparently drawn in denuclearization talks but leaving room for the two sides to find diplomatic solution to the current standoff.

"Lifting the moratorium does not mean an immediate strategic provocation taking place," said Cho Seong-ryoul, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with South Korea's spy agency.

"I think North Korea has not expressed an intention for an immediate provocation. In that, the North appears to have left room for negotiations," he added.

The North Korean leader said there will "never be the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula" and the North will continue to develop strategic weapons until the U.S. withdraws its hostile policy toward its regime, according to the KCNA.

He also emphasized the importance of self-reliance and belt-tightening in fighting what would be a protracted struggle against sanctions and pressure led by the U.S.

"We should never dream that the U.S. and the hostile forces would leave us alone to live in peace, but we should make a frontal breakthrough with the might of self-reliance to tide over the difficulties lying in the way of advancing the socialist construction," he said.

"It is our firm revolutionary faith to defend the country's dignity and defeat imperialism through self-prosperity even though we tighten our belts."

At the forefront of building a self-reliant economy is science and technology, he said, calling it an "inexhaustible strategic asset" that should be "the light that brightens the way ahead in fighting "manifold hardships in the economic work."

Kim did not mention any policy with regard to South Korea, apparently reflecting the recently chilled inter-Korean relations amid lack of progress in denuclearization talks.

Meanwhile, the North Korean leader appears to be skipping his annual New Year's Day address amid speculation that the speech could be replaced by his remarks during the rare four-day party meeting held until Tuesday.

Kim has not skipped his New Year's Day speech since taking office in late 2011. Last January, he in a western-style suit made a speech broadcasted in a prerecorded footage.

Pyongyang's state TV broadcast an almost hourlong report on Kim's remarks during the party meeting but made no mention of his annual speech. Nor did the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling party, and the KCNA mention his New Year's Day message coming up.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) smiles during a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on Dec. 31, 2019, in this photo disclosed by its official Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 1. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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