North Korea to Trump: Don't test us

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk after lunch at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore

Kim Jong Un says he is ready to sit down again with President Donald Trump - but also warned the United States against imposing more sanctions.

Kim also during his New Year's speech on Tuesday said the United States should continue to halt its joint military exercises with ally South Korea and not deploy strategic military assets to the South. He said he was willing to resume joint projects with the South, including reopening the Kaesong industrial park and Mount Kumgang resort, without conditions.

The moves - an about-face from the weapons tests and threats in 2017 - were telegraphed in Kim's previous New Year's speech, in which he offered to discuss participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Last year's New Year's Day address came at a time of much greater tension, but Kim used that opportunity to balance tough talk with a rare olive branch to South Korea.

He also called for a halt to the deployment of "strategic assets" on the Korean Peninsula, an apparent reference to US bombers and submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

However, the United States intelligence community remains convinced that North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program in secret, in violation of numerous promises made to the United States and the global community. But other experts, including former South Korean nuclear envoy Lee Soo-hyuk, were skeptical that would happen given the deadlocked bilateral talks, the Sino-U.S. trade war and Trump's dislike for multinational mechanisms.

They met another two times after that but the most historic summit of 2018 was the North Korean leader's meeting with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

The US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, reiterated last month that Washington had no intention of easing sanctions but had agreed to help South Korea send flu medication to North Korea, saying such cooperation could help advance nuclear diplomacy. That summit resulted in a vaguely worded pledge "to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

According to Sky News, Kim said: "Now that North and South Korea chose to take the path of peace and prosperity, we insist that joint military exercises with outside forces should no longer be allowed and deployment of war equipment such as outside strategic assets should be completely stopped".

"He appeared more confident than ever, emboldened by some of the progress he made past year, which also implies he thinks he has the upper edge in the negotiations with the United States as a nuclear-armed state", said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. North Korea has ceased its provocative ballistic missile tests in recent months. "He's exuding confidence that his country isn't hung up over the U.S., that they can still prosper without Washington". Some analysts say North Korea has been trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul while putting the larger burden of action on the United States.

Kim's remarks were "apparently created to revive the momentum of the negotiations", South Korea's centrist Hankook Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial Wednesday.

As Al Jazeera reported, Kim made clear his willingness to participate in a second summit.

"My sense is that Kim wants to portray himself as a legitimate leader in the worldwide community both superior to Moon Jae-in and an equal to Donald Trump", Maxwell wrote.

"It means North Korea wants to pursue a "two plus two" negotiations on establishing a peace regime, with China on its side", a report released by the Institute for National Security Strategy on Tuesday said.

Kim also warned the U.S.in his remarks that if there was not more progress on the US side, that North Korea may have to "seek another way".

The only way to resolve the long-running nuclear conundrum is for the USA and North Korea to agree on "stage-by-stage arrangements so there will be reciprocity in mutual concessions", Cheng believes.

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