United Nations chief expresses deep concern over North Korea's nuclear program

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© Doug Mills/The New York Times North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, declared a halt to all nuclear and ICBM tests in April 2018.

Some experts say North Korea, which has always been sensitive about electoral changes in USA government, will avoid serious negotiations in the coming months as it watches how Trump's impending impeachment trial over his dealings with Ukraine affects US presidential elections in November.

"The end-of-year deadline it imposed could've led to a much more definitive North Korean posture, but instead the language Kim used was extremely careful and very conditioned on USA actions", he said.

For months, Pyongyang has been demanding the easing of worldwide sanctions imposed over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, while Washington has insisted it take more tangible steps towards giving them up.

"The US is raising demands contrary to the fundamental interests of our state and is adopting brigandish attitude", KCNA cited him as saying.

The unprecedented rapprochement between the United States and North Korea began almost two years ago, after months of nuclear and ICBM tests and threats from both sides.

That remark, and Mr. Kim's reluctance to clarify when North Korea would officially resume testing, indicated that he might still be open to further negotiations with Washington.

"Kim has rhetorically freed himself to pursue any kind of research and weapons testing he wants", Jackson said.

Tensions between the USA and North Korea have ratcheted up in recent months following the collapse of talks in February in Hanoi.

The "new strategic weapon" mentioned by Kim - said by some analysts to be the country's first solid-fueled ICBM - could be the anticipated "Christmas gift" that a senior North Korea official warned the US of last month.

Negotiations between the two sides have not lasted since the Hanoi summit ended in February previous year. The North set the United States an end-of-2019 deadline for it to offer fresh concessions on sanctions relief, or it would adopt a "new way".

It remained unclear if a test was imminent.

The North Korean leader Kim concluded that "there will never be denuclearization on the Korean peninsula" and that the North will continue to develop strategic weapons "until the United States resumes its hostile policy towards North Korea and a mechanism is built. for the maintenance of lasting peace ".

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Kim acknowledged the impact of worldwide sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its weapons programs, but made clear that the North was willing to pay the price to preserve its nuclear capability.

If Kim carries out his threat to launch an ICBM, it will deal a devastating blow to the Trump Administration's claims of success with North Korea.

Pyongyang, however, could "resume Nodong and Scud launches, 'to test operational readiness, '" Robert Carlin, a former USA intelligence official with decades of experience researching North Korea now at the Stimson Center, said during Wednesday's telephone briefing.

Speaking to Fox News and CBS after Kim's announcement, Pompeo said a resumption of nuclear and missile tests would be "deeply disappointing".

Trump, who was asked about Kim's comments later on Tuesday, expressed optimism and asked the North Korean leader to act on what the U.S. president had promised. Kim and Trump held face-to-face talks in Singapore in June 2018, and in Vietnam in February 2019, aimed at denuclearisation. "We get along", Trump said as he walked into a New Year's party at his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago. "But he did sign a contract, he did sign an agreement talking about denuclearization. I think he's a man of his word". "What matters is accuracy", Lee said in an interview published Wednesday in The Korea Times newspaper. "As long as we weren't ready to impose unilateral sanctions, the current moment was inevitable".

While the North has demonstrated that its fleet of missiles could likely reach parts of the United States, the country still has not shown it could design a nuclear warhead that would survive the heat and huge forces that come with re-entry of a warhead into the atmosphere.

"We can never sell our dignity, which we have so far defended as something as valuable as our own lives, in the hope of a brilliant transformation", Kim said, according to excerpts from an unusual 7 hour speech this week to party leaders in Pyongyang.

The standoff between the two nuclear states, he added, is now "between independence and sanctions".

At the same time, Mr. Kim has exhorted his people not to expect any immediate easing of sanctions and to brace for a prolonged struggle against the Americans by building a "self-reliant" economy.

All of the North's state media gave prominent coverage to Mr. Kim's remarks, indicating that they may have replaced an annual New Year's Day speech that he had been expected to deliver.

North Korean last test-fired an ICBM in late 2017.

Trump might be willing to turn a blind eye to missiles unable to strike the USA, like Nodongs, Scuds and IRBMs capable of hitting much of Japan, much as he did past year when the North unleashed a spate of short-range weapons tests. Way to improve his missile technology. "We hope that Chairman Kim will make the right decision to choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war".

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