January 02, 2020 10:01
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has hinted heavily that he could scrap a moratorium on nuclear weapons as a unilateral year-end deadline for concessions from the U.S. passed.
North Korean state-run media on Wednesday quoted Kim as saying during a marathon Workers Party Central Committee session in Pyongyang that his country "will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy."
"The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by [North Korea] in the near future. We cannot give up the security of our future just for visible economic results."
The "new strategic weapon" is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile or submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Kim objects to ongoing joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, South Korean purchases of American weapons and international sanctions. It claims it took the first step by declaring the unprompted moratorium on nuclear and missile tests but the U.S. did not change its "hostile policy" against the North.
"There is no ground for us to [be] unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer," Kim was quoted as saying. But he left room for a breakthrough by adding that "the scope and depth of bolstering our deterrent will be properly coordinated depending on the U.S. future attitude" to the North.
But the U.S. is unable to accept Kim's demands even if it wanted to. It has already scaled down major joint exercises and kept smaller ones low-key, but a certain amount of training must be maintained, and a blanket halt makes no sense.
Kim has not yet delivered his traditional a New Year's address but made the threats during the central committee session. It was the first New Year's address to be canceled or postponed in 33 years.
Kim, meanwhile, made no mention at all of inter-Korean relations, continuing a sulk that started after the Hanoi summit with the U.S. collapsed in February last year, when Kim felt senior aides had somehow been deceived by boosterism from South Korea, which was acting as a mediator.
South Korea is mentioned only once in a statement after the committee meet, where North Korea accused it of "treacherously" procuring more U.S. weapons. The Institute for National Security Strategy said Kim "does not consider inter-Korean relations as a key variable in the current political circumstances."
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