Kim warns North Korea could consider change of tack

If the USA "misjudges our patience and forces things upon us while maintaining sanctions and pressure instead of keeping the promises it made", Mr Kim said he could be "left with no choice but to seek a new path".

At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, the two signed a vaguely worded pledge on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

"I am ready to sit face to face with the United States president again at any time going forward, and will make efforts to produce an outcome the worldwide community would welcome", he said in an apparent response to a series of conciliatory gestures from the US.

The atmospherics supported North Korean propaganda efforts to paint Kim as a modern political leader who could be trusted with a nuclear arsenal.

Kim emphasized that it is his firm intention to work on building "new relations" with the US, establishing lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and seeking "complete denuclearization", as agreed to in his June summit with Trump, if the USA takes trustworthy and corresponding measures.

Still, that summary did quote Kim as urging North Koreans to effect "a revolutionary surge on all fronts of the socialist construction by regarding self-reliance as a treasured sword for prosperity".

Kim Jong Un said Washington should stop breaking promises and lift sanctions - or Pyongyang may change path.

But while Kim Jong Un says he wants to continue along the diplomatic path, the clear hint is that without some response from the United States, the rapprochement witnessed past year may go into reverse.

He said: "You look at North Korea, we are doing really well - rockets aren't being fired missiles aren't being fired".

"We are willing to resume the Kaesong industrial complex and tour program to Kumgangsan without any preconditions or price, in consideration of South Korean businessmen who once worked at the complex and their hard situation, along with the hopes of our South Korean comrades who seek to visit our people's famous mountain", Kim said in his speech.

"We will never tolerate outside interferences and interventions meant to block our way toward reconciliation, unity and the unification of our people, while trying to make our relations scummy to their states and interests", the North Korean leader said, adding that "significant" agreements achieved during 2018's three inter-Korean summits could be "regarded as non-aggression treaty". He also pointed to a potential second meeting with Trump.

The North Korean leader is asking Washington to take the next step to break the stalemate, such as allowing the reopening of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, analysts said.

Kim also emphasized the development of the North Korean economy and, without elaborating, mentioned nuclear power as part of the country's plans to boost electricity production.

The annual New Year's address is a tradition Mr Kim picked up from his grandfather, founder of the communist country, Kim Il-sung.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since then, and Mr Kim's New Year address has cast further doubt on whether he is willing to give up the weapons after all. -North Korea relations and an end to Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Mr Kim congratulated himself on his diplomatic activities during 2018, including meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The two sides have yet to reschedule a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean officials after Pyongyang canceled it at the last minute in November.

"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.

  • Tracy Klein