It’s a new year, and with no breakthrough moment in US-North Korea nuclear talks by end of 2019, Kim is once again on the offensive.
His first act of 2020 was to declare on Wednesday that his country is no longer bound by his prior good faith pledge to President Trump to halt major missile tests. Toward this end, he threateningly announced Pyongyang will soon unveil to the world “new strategic weapon”.
“The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future,” Kim said, while addressing a four-day long ruling party meeting.
Further alarming is that he urged before party bosses “shocking actual action” to make the US “pay for the pains” endured by his country under crippling Washington sanctions.
Trump, for his part, didn’t appear to give too much credence to the threat after the prior ominous “Christmas gift” never materialized. “We’re going to find out, but I think he’s a man of his word,” the president told reporters in Florida.
Suggesting there’s still space for compromise and dialogue, Bloomberg observes what was crucially missing from Kim’s talking points:
Kim left some room for negotiations by avoiding direct criticism of Trump and not explicitly calling off talks or announcing new weapons tests. The threat to revive tensions could put Kim’s own recent diplomatic gains at risk, alienate supporters such as China and Russia and increase international support for more sanctions.
In response to the KCNA media report detailing the provocative speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News “We hope that Chairman Kim will take a different course.”
The US top diplomat added, “We are hopeful that Chairman Kim will make the right decision and he will choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.”
Indeed a major weapons or long-range test would indeed take the Korean peninsula a big step closer to war — the worst case scenario that both sides are still calculating their rhetoric to avoid.