Kim Jong-un warns of change in direction on denuclearisation

In this undated image from video distributed on Tuesday Jan. 1 2019 by North Korean broadcaster KRT North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech in North Korea. North Korean leader Kim says he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with

Kim's speech was closely watched as North Korean leaders traditionally use New Year's statements to reflect on the past year and issue major policy goals for the year ahead.

In marked contrast with January 1, 2018, when he ordered mass production of nuclear warheads, Kim said the North had "declared that we would no longer produce, test, use or spread our nuclear arsenal", calling for the U.S. to take "corresponding measures".

Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War in response to its initial, unilateral steps toward denuclearization, including dismantling its only known nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

According to Kim Dong-yub, this is not only a message to South Korea, asking it to determine its North Korea policy independently without the involvement of the USA, but also an indirect appeal to Washington for an alleviation of the sanctions.

Kim and Trump vowed to work toward denuclearization and build a "lasting and stable" peace regime at their landmark summit in Singapore in June, but both sides have since been struggling to make progress.

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

TV screens show US President Donald Trump, right, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

Observers say those steps have not been confirmed and can be easily reversed.

The North Korean leader called on South Korea to "completely stop" joint military drills with the United States, while remaining keen for dialogue and multilateral negotiations to continue.

In a jab at the South's alliance with the U.S., Kim also said Washington should continue to halt its joint military exercises with Seoul and not deploy strategic military assets to the South.

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Duyeon Kim, from the Center for a New American Security, told CNN that the New Year's message was "confident" and "normal", but added that the message to the USA was clear: "He still sent a very firm word of caution, bordering a nuanced threat, that if Washington doesn't keep its Singapore promise and continues with sanctions, then he has Plan B in mind and will go his separate way". Kim also urged the North Korean people to strengthen their "self-reliance", a message that echoed Chinese President Xi Jinping's similar address Monday night.Kim repeated the importance of being "frugal" multiple times when speaking about economic plans.

The fact that Kim Jong Un's renewed commitment to denuclearisation was made not just to the outside world, but to millions of ordinary North Koreans, is seen as significant. Taking matters into their own hands, Kim and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in held a symbolic ceremony to link their railway and road networks late December.

As a way to tackle chronic power shortages, he raised the need for atomic energy.

Last year's rapprochement came after a turbulent 2017 marked by North Korea testing missiles that could reach the United States mainland and an escalation in rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington with both sides trading insults and threats of nuclear destruction. Private analysts have accused North Korea of continuing nuclear and missile development, citing details from commercial satellite imagery.

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