“I am ready to meet U.S. President (Donald Trump) again at any time in the future,” said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, expressing expectations on the second U.S.-North Korea Summit. At the same time, he also warned about the possibility of a breakaway from denuclearization, saying, “I do not have any other choice but to seek a new road if the United States tries to force North Korea into something by itself and pushes sanctions and oppression.”
Kim Jong Un emphasized that he was delivering his own opinion by using the expression "I" to President Trump and appealed by saying, “I want to believe that there will be good results. As much as we have consented to the fast method to solve our problems, we should meet at any time. I will try my best to reap fruitful results.” With respect to denuclearization, however, Kim only reiterated the "complete denuclearization of the Joseon Peninsula," and did not mention any disposal of nukes it owed previously. He also did not mention the permanent withdrawal of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, which was included in the inter-Korean statement in September 2018. Rather, he only emphasized the suspension of manufacturing, testing, using, and expending nuclear weapons. Such position makes us wonder the actual meaning of Kim's denuclearization – finalizing denuclearization only to the extent of a nuclear freeze.
The North Korean leader failed to show any improvements in denuclearization but rather argued for the suspension of joint training between South Korea and the U.S. and bringing in strategic assets of the U.S. under the pretense of resolving hostile relationship between the two Koreas. It also expressed its intent for resuming the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mt. Kumgang tour without any preconditions or cost to expand overall exchange and cooperation. At the same time, Kim emphasized that he will not allow any interference and intervention of outside forces. In other words, North Korea gave an order to South Korea to speed up its process for inter-Koran economic cooperation by throwing a bait that North Korea can open Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang without any fees for using land or tourism fees.
Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech reflected a conspicuously different U.S.-North Korea relationship compared to last year, when he unhesitatingly threatened the United States, saying, “The nuclear button is on top of my desk.” Substantial proposals to resolve the long-lasting standstill since the Singapore Summit on June 12, however, are nowhere to be seen. It is difficult to expect any progress when North Korea’s position is to wait for corresponding measures such as the United States’ preemptive withdrawal of sanctions. This is in no way helpful for the inter-Korean relationship. Pushing only one of the two wheels – the two Koreas and U.S.-North Korea – will lead to nowhere.