Kim Jong Un Issues U.S

North Korea would have "no option but to explore a new path in order to protect our sovereignty" if the U.S. "miscalculates our people's patience, forces something upon us and pursues sanctions and pressure without keeping a promise it made in front of the world", Kim said.

The North Korean leader "obviously had certain expectations that the United States would take certain steps - however rudimentary they are - after the North blew up a nuclear test site and took other steps".

That could suggest Kim wants the resumption of the two projects as sanctions relief from the U.S.

He also called for an end to joint military drills between the US and South Korea and said no strategic military assets should be brought onto the Korean peninsula.

It came after a year of high tensions when the North made rapid progress with its weapons development, carrying out its sixth nuclear test - by far its most powerful to date - and launching rockets capable of reaching the entire USA mainland.

Last year's speech set the country on an unprecedented path of global diplomacy with South Korea and the US.

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.

In the months since the historic summit, leaders from both countries, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have been trying to negotiate a second meeting between Trump and Kim.

In his new year speech, he called on the U.S. to halt its joint military exercises with South Korea and to refrain from deploying military assets in the country.

Adam Mount, a senior analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said Kim appears to be hinting at an agreement that falls short of a full disarmament, but could still represent a major limitation of the North Korean threat - a cap that essentially freezes the North's rudimentary nuclear capability from growing or advancing further.

Last year's rapprochement came after a turbulent 2017 marked by North Korea testing missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland and an escalation in rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington with both sides trading insults and threats of nuclear destruction.

"Up until even last year, he stood and read the New Year's speech in a rather stiff and strong tone", Cheong said.

-South Korean alliance with their military cooperation coming under pressure from Pyongyang, Seoul's process for inter-Korean engagement, and Washington's current inability to reach an agreement on cost-sharing for the USA military presence in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Trump used his New Year's message to brag about the "accomplishments" of his adminstatrion so far.

Since then, the North has halted nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Kim and Trump vowed to work toward denuclearization and build "lasting and stable" peace at their landmark summit in Singapore in June, but little progress has been made since. North Korea always interprets "denuclearization" to mean removing or limiting all nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, including those deployed to protect South Korea.

"North Korea seems determined in 2019 to receive some sort of sanctions relief".

However, there was a clear warning that the country is not ready to disarm unilaterally.

In this year's 30-minute speech, Kim spent more than 20 minutes highlighting his new focus on the economy.

While the North has stopped missile and nuclear testing, there's been little indication that Pyongyang is working towards complete and verifiable denuclearisation as the U.S. has called upon it to do. There are views that North Korea wants a quick second summit because it thinks it can win major concessions from Trump that they probably couldn't from lower level US officials, who are more adamant about the North committing to inspections and verification.

  • Joey Payne