North Korea warns of 'new path' if U.S. 'continues to break promises'

"North Korea has always been adept at putting the onus for action on the United States, taking the initiative in a way that forces Washington to either react on Pyongyang's terms or look like the obstacle to progress", Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. diplomat specialising in the Koreas, told the Telegraph.

Kim said he was willing to meet Trump again at any time "to produce results welcomed by the worldwide community".

"If the USA fails to carry out its promise to the world ... and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure upon the DPRK", Kim said, using the acronym for the North's formal name, "we might be compelled to explore a new path for defending the sovereignty of our country and supreme interests of our state".

He further threatened that if the United States did not lift the sanctions, North Korea would be "left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests".

"If the United States takes honest measures and corresponding action to our leading and pre-emptive efforts, then relations will advance at a fast and excellent pace through the process of implementing definite and groundbreaking measures", he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the US State Department, but South Korea's presidential office welcomed Kim's speech, saying it carried his "firm will" to advance relations with Seoul and Washington. On the front page of the ruling party's flagship newspaper was Kim touring monuments to capitalism, stepping out of a Chinese jet and smiling while shaking hands with the "imperialist" USA president.

The two leaders traded personal insults - Trump mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man", who in turn called him a "mentally deranged United States dotard" - and threats of war.

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.

Seoul and Washington are in a security alliance and the United States stations 28,500 troops in the South to protect it against its neighbour, which invaded in 1950.

"U.S. negotiators should move decisively in the new year to find out how far Kim is willing to go toward a verified cap on his arsenal".

"It is the unwavering position of our party and the republic's government and my firm will that the two countries as declared in the June 12 joint statement. take steps to establish a permanent and stable peace regime and push toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", he said.

Seoul and Pyongyang have pursued several reconciliation initiatives in recent months, including projects to upgrade the North's outdated rail infrastructure and reconnect it with the South. North Korea has broken promises made to the United States to halt is nuclear weapons program on at least six prior occasions. North Korea always interprets "denuclearization" to mean removing or limiting all nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, including those deployed to protect South Korea. North Korea seemingly seeks to include China, one of its closest allies, in the talks for more leverage, experts have noted.

Although Pyongyang did not conduct nuclear or missile tests past year, satellite images have pointed to continued activity at the North's related facilities.

"There are views that North Korea wants a quick second summit because it thinks it can win major concessions from Trump that they probably couldn't from lower-level US officials, who are more adamant about the North committing to inspections and verification", the New York Post observed.

Kim devoted a large chunk of his speech to reiterating this focus on rebuilding his country's tattered economy, calling for increasing electricity generation - including via the use of nuclear energy - and other development projects.

  • Rogelio Becker