Kim Jong-un warns of change in direction on denuclearisation

In this undated image from video distributed on Tuesday Jan. 1 2019 by North Korean broadcaster KRT North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech in North Korea. North Korean leader Kim says he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with

North Korea's leader has said he is committed to denuclearisation, but his New Year message came laced with a warning to the United States.

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

North Korea might be "compelled to explore a new path" to defend its sovereignty if the United States "seeks to force something upon us unilaterally. and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure", Kim said in his nationally televised address.

Duyeon Kim, from the Center for a New American Security, told CNN that the New Year's message was "confident" and "normal", but added that the message to the US was clear: "He still 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".

Kim's speech "expressed his frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations so far", said former South Korean vice unification minister Kim Hyung-seok.

Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War in response to its initial, unilateral steps toward denuclearisation, including dismantling its only known nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

In a jab at the South's alliance with the U.S., Kim also said Washington should continue to halt its joint military exercises with Seoul and not deploy strategic military assets to the South.

Kim used his New Year's speech a year ago to start a newfound diplomatic approach with Seoul and Washington, which led to his meetings with Moon and Trump.

Trump shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island, in Singapore.

It was not clear what "new path" the North Korean leader was referring to.

Kim's speech also points toward a hard year for the U.S.

Kim's speech comes after year of unprecedented summitry, including the historic summit with Trump and three meetings with Moon and two with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and provided a rare glimpse into the general direction of the reclusive country's policy in the months to come.

He also said the US and South Korea should no longer carry out joint military exercises - which have been largely halted since the Singapore meeting - calling such drills "a source of tension".

The hardening stalemate has fueled doubts on whether Kim will ever voluntarily relinquish the nuclear weapons and missiles he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

While North Korea's denuclearization has stalled since Kim's summit with US President Donald Trump in June, partially due to the US's reluctance to provide sanctions relief to the North, inter-Korean reconciliation is proceeding at a steady pace. 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 USA officials, who are more adamant about the North committing to inspections and verification.

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.

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

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