The North’s state media said Wednesday that Kim made the comments during a four-day ruling party conference held through Tuesday in the capital Pyongyang, where he declared that the North will never give up its security for economic benefits in the face of what he described as increasing U.S. hostility and nuclear threats.
Kim’s comments came after a monthslong standoff between Washington and Pyongyang over disagreements involving disarmament steps and the removal of sanctions imposed on the North.
“He said that we will never allow the impudent U.S. to abuse the DPRK-U.S. dialogue for meeting its sordid aim but will shift to a shocking actual action to make it pay for the pains sustained by our people so far and for the development so far restrained,” the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to the North by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Kim added that “if the U.S. persists in its hostile policy toward the DPRK, there will never be the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and 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,” according to the agency.
However, Kim showed no clear indication of abandoning negotiations with the United States entirely or restarting tests of nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles he had suspended under a self-imposed moratorium in 2018.
He did issue a warning that there would be no grounds for the North to get “unilaterally bound” to the moratorium any longer, criticizing the United States for continuing its joint military exercises with rival South Korea and also providing the South with advanced weaponry.
“In the past two years alone when the DPRK took preemptive and crucial measures of halting its nuclear test and ICBM test-fire and shutting down the nuclear-test ground for building confidence between the DPRK and the U.S., the U.S., far from responding to the former with appropriate measures, conducted tens of big and small joint military drills which its president personally promised to stop and threatened the former militarily through the shipment of ultra-modern warfare equipment into (South Korea),” the KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Some experts say North Korea, which has always been sensitive about electoral changes in U.S. government, will avoid engaging in serious negotiations for a deal with Washington in coming months as it watches how Trump’s impending impeachment trial over his dealings with Ukraine affects U.S. presidential elections in November.
Kim and President Donald Trump have met three times since June 2018, but negotiations have faltered since the collapse of their second summit last February in Vietnam, where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Kim’s speech followed months of intensified testing activity and belligerent statements issued by various North Korean officials, raising concerns that he was reverting to confrontation and preparing to do something provocative if Washington doesn’t back down and relieve sanctions.
The North announced in December that it performed two “crucial” tests at its long-range rocket launch site that would further strengthen its nuclear deterrent, prompting speculation that it was developing an ICBM or planning a satellite launch that would provide an opportunity to advance its missile technologies.
North Korea also last year ended a 17-month pause in ballistic activity by testing a slew of solid-fuel weapons that potentially expanded its capabilities to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. military bases there. It also threatened to lift a self-imposed moratorium on the testing of nuclear bombs and ICBMs.