Kim Jong Un warned two months ago that if the US didn’t ease sanctions on North Korea that he would seek a new, potentially military, way to defend his country’s sovereignty.
On Feb 28, 2019, President Donald Trump said he was unable to strike a deal with Kim at their meeting in Vietnam because Kim was only willing to give up some of his nuclear sites in exchange for total sanctions relief, which Trump refused to concede.
In his 2019 New Year’s Day speech, Kim said that his country “may be compelled to find a new way” to defend itself if the US didn’t lift sanctions. Trump confirmed to reporters on Feb. 28, 2019, that all of current US sanctions are still “in place, yes.”
President Donald J. Trump is greeted by Kim Jong Un Feb. 27, 2019, at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, for their second summit meeting.
Sitting on a leather chair with a black suit and grey tie in January 2019, Kim hinted that the lack of sanctions relief — as was seen in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 28, 2019 — could merit a military response or escalation.
“If the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic,” he said, according to a translation by the state-run Rodong Sinmun, “we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.”
Watch the New Year’s address here:
The alternative means of defense that Kim mentioned in the speech could be the restarting of nuclear missile tests — which North Korea said it ended in April 2018, and which Kim affirmed his commitment to halting on Feb. 28, 2019.
Kim’s speech last month could also hint at an expansion of the 12 nuclear sites that already exist in the country.
Prior to the summit US intelligence and North Korea experts repeatedly warned that Pyongyang is unlikely to give up its nuclear arms. An intelligence report published January 2019 reiterated the idea that the country’s leaders view nuclear arms as “critical to regime survival.”
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