Kim Jong Un Warns He is No Longer Bound by Self-Imposed Moratorium on Nuclear Tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced he is longer bound by his self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests, warning of unspecified “shocking” action if the United States does not soften its stance in nuclear talks.  

Kim said there are no grounds to refrain from such tests as long as the U.S. continues conducting military drills and selling advanced weapons with and to South Korea, according to comments published Wednesday in the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).  

North Korea has not conducted a nuclear or ICBM test in over two years. In April 2018, Kim announced his country “no longer need(s)” such tests. That decision helped pave the way for nearly two years of negotiations with the United States, which are now stalled.

People watch a TV screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, left, during…
People watch a TV screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, left, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 31, 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has met with Kim three times, has said the North Korean leader personally promised to not resume ICBM or nuclear tests, though the two leaders never formalized that agreement. Trump has not yet responded to Kim’s comments.

“If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump, that is deeply disappointing,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBS News. “He made those commitments to President Trump in exchange for President Trump agreeing not to conduct large-scale military exercises.”

In his comments Wednesday, Kim did not appear to formally abandon talks with the U.S., but did unveil a new, firmer stance toward negotiations with Washington.  

North Korea will continue developing its “powerful nuclear deterrent,” Kim said, warning of an unspecified “shocking actual action.”

“The DPRK will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy,” Kim said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.

“The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future,” Kim said, adding, “We cannot give up the security of our future just for the visible economic results.”

Kim may announce further details in a speech expected to be broadcast later on New Year’s Day. In his 2019 New Year’s speech, Kim warned he may take a “new way” unless the U.S. changes its approach to nuclear talks.

Stalled talks

At their first summit in June 2018, Trump and Kim agreed to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Since then, the two sides have not been able to agree on what that phrase means or how to begin working toward it.  

People watch a TV screen showing a file image of a ground test of North Korea's rocket engine during a news program at the…
FILE – People watch a TV screen showing a file image of a ground test of North Korea’s rocket engine during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 9, 2019.

Amid the stalled talks, North Korea in 2019 imposed an end-of-year deadline for the U.S. to offer more concessions. U.S. officials dismissed the deadline as arbitrary and a negotiating tactic.  

On Wednesday, Kim accused the U.S. of intentionally prolonging the nuclear talks. But he also appeared to leave open the possibility that the talks could eventually result in some modification to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  
  
“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.  

“This is NOT shutting door on talks,” tweeted Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which produces the influential NK News website.

But the negotiations have already effectively been dead for months, Adam Mount, a North Korea expert at the Federation of American Scientists, pointed out.

“It’s possible they are willing to return to the table to negotiate a more modest arms control arrangement,” Mount said. “But in any event, we can expect a much tougher line that does not indulge the soaring expectations of the last years.”
 



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