North Korea's leader promises 'new strategic weapon,' leaves room for talks
By Hyonhee Shin and Jack Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday said his country will continue developing nuclear programmes and introduce a "new strategic weapon" in the near future, state media KCNA said, after the United States missed a year-end deadline for a restart of denuclearisation talks.
Kim convened a rare four-day meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's policy-making committee since Saturday as the United States had not responded to his repeated calls for concessions to reopen negotiations, dismissing the deadline as artificial.
There were no grounds for North Korea to be bound any longer by the self-declared nuclear and ICBM test moratorium as the United States makes "gangster-like demands" including continuing joint military drills with South Korea, adopting cutting edge weapons and imposing sanctions, Kim said, according to KCNA.
He pledged to further develop North Korea's nuclear deterrent but left the door open for dialogue, saying the "scope and depth" of that deterrent will be "properly coordinated depending on" the attitude of the United States.
"The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future," Kim said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"We will reliably put on constant alert the powerful nuclear deterrent capable of containing the nuclear threats from the U.S. and guaranteeing our long-term security."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped North Korea would "choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war."
Kim had previously said he might have to seek a "new path" if Washington fails to meet his expectations. U.S. military commanders said Pyongyang's actions could include the testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it has halted since 2017, alongside nuclear warhead tests.
Tension had been rising ahead of the year-end deadline as North Korea conducted a series of weapons tests and waged a war of words with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The nuclear talks have made little headway though Kim and Trump met three times. A working-level meeting in Stockholm in October fell apart, with a North Korean chief negotiator accusing U.S. officials of sticking to their old stance.
KCNA quoted Kim as saying that there will "never be denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula" if Washington adheres to what he calls its hostile policy.
We "will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and lasting and durable peace-keeping mechanism is built," Kim said.
He called for his people to brace for an "arduous and prolonged struggle" and foster a self-reliant economy because of delays in a much-anticipated lifting of sanctions.
"The present situation warning of long confrontation with the U.S. urgently requires us to make it a fait accompli that we have to live under the sanctions by the hostile forces in the future, too, and to strengthen the internal power from all aspects."
Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Centre for the National Interest in Washington, said Kim appeared to be gambling that threatening another demonstration of his ability to hit the United States with a nuclear weapon would somehow push America into granting more concessions.
"North Korea has, in effect, put an ICBM to Donald Trump’s head in order to gain the two concessions it wants most: sanctions relief and some sort of security guarantee,” he said.
"With U.S. Presidential elections coming as well as elections in South Korea, the mood for compromise might have gone up in smoke the moment North Korea sent its ICBM into the sky."
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Jack Kim; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)