Among the New Year’s greetings from global leaders, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has received the most attention. Compared with the others, mainly recaps of 2018 highlights, Kim’s address focused on what the world could expect from his country’s domestic and international policies for 2019.
Last year, Kim’s New Year address was explosive, revealing huge policy changes, but this year, the public’s mind was put to rest as he repeated past policies, hoping to continue the trend of turning hostility into friendship, providing a new impetus for the deadlocked nuclear talks.
Kim said North Korea would discontinue its nuclear ambitions and missile testing program. He also said he was prepared to meet with US President Donald Trump once again, and at any time.
Trump acknowledged he had received Kim’s messages and said he was looking forward to a summit with Kim “who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential.”
Based on Trump’s response, long-term US-North Korea relations are promising and a second Trump-Kim summit can be expected.
Both leaders have expressed a desire to negotiate a second summit and ready to move forward. After US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth visit to Pyongyang in October, it was predicted that North Korea-US dialogue would resume and that North Korea’s denuclearization and peace process will achieve remarkable results.
Kim’s New Year address also revealed his dissatisfaction with US sanctions and pressure, indicating Pyongyang may choose to explore a “new path,” although Kim did not offer an explanation of what this “new path” might be.
The international community is wondering whether North Korea would resume its nuclear program and boost its economy at the same time. Kim reaffirmed his new strategy of concentrating on developing the economy and showed his position of “nuclear freeze.”
Previously, North Korea was disgruntled with the US after Washington escalated sanctions and appointed Stephen Biegun as US special envoy for North Korean policy in August. Pyongyang refused to meet with the new envoy. In the end, Biegun failed to negotiate anything with North Korea during his first three months in the role.
In his New Year address, Kim pointed out that the US sanctions may propel North Korea to “find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country.” The US sanctions remain a stumbling block for North Korea-US relations.
Pyongyang wants to shift focus onto economic development. Washington has noticed this trend. In Trump’s brief response on his Twitter, he noted that “North Korea possesses great economic potential.”
That being said, the second Kim-Trump summit will more than likely happen. The problem is to what extent the two sides can reach a compromise.
For the future summit, North Korea may promise to carry out denuclearization measures, allow US experts to inspect the demolished Punggye-ri nuclear test site, destroy Dongchang-ni site and even demolish the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.
In return, Washington may open up cultural exchanges with Pyongyang, restart humanitarian aid, establish liaison offices, grant exemptions of sanctions, stop joint military drills with Seoul and the use of strategic weapons in South Korea.
Kim also pointed out how it is needed to “actively promote multi-party negotiations for replacing the current cease-fire on the Korean peninsula with a peace mechanism in close contact with the signatories to the armistice agreement to lay a lasting and substantial peace-keeping foundation.”
This reveals how North Korea supports treating China as a party concerned with signing a potential peace agreement. This stance is different from that of Seoul, which proposes to take only the three parties, North, South Korea and the US, into consideration as the signatories. It is anticipated the Blue House will accept this plan.
Both North Korea and the US demonstrated their sincerity and goodwill of future dialogue on the first day of the New Year, although they will face numerous twists and obstacles in the days to come. It is hoped Kim and Trump will bring more positive surprises to the world.