North Korean leader says he's ready for more talks with Trump

North Korean leader says he's ready for more talks with Trump

Kim called for stronger inter-Korean cooperation and said Pyongyang was ready to resume operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North's Diamond Mountain resort.

"I am ready to sit with the US President again at any time in the future and will make efforts by all means to produce a result that will be welcomed by the worldwide community", Mr Kim said in his address, broadcast by the North's state television.

The comments are likely to fuel growing scepticism over whether Pyongyang intends to give up the nuclear weapons program that it has long considered essential to its security.

Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-1953 Korean War in response to its initial, unilateral steps towards denuclearisation, including dismantling its only known nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

While Kim's address included conditions for further talks with the US, Seoul welcomed the speech as a sign of the North Korean leader's willingness to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve denuclearization.

The statement jarred with Seoul's claim that Kim is genuinely interested in negotiating away his nukes and suggested that the North will potentially demand the United States withdraw or significantly reduce the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea, a major sticking point in any disarmament deal.

In the speech, which stood in stark contrast to last year's address - which saw him order the mass production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles - Kim said himself for the first time that the North had "declared that we would no longer produce, test, use or spread our nuclear arsenal" and urged "corresponding measures" from Washington.

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Washington and Pyongyang have yet to reschedule a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean officials after the North cancelled it at the last minute in November.

Observers say those steps have not been confirmed and can be easily reversed.

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.

The two leaders traded personal insults - Trump mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man", who in turn called him a "mentally deranged USA dotard" - and threats of war. Washington halted some large-scale military exercises with Seoul to aid nuclear negotiations, but smaller drills continued.

Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Trump could meet for a second summit in 2019.

"Now that North and South Korea decided on the path of peace and prosperity, we insist that joint military exercises with outside forces should no longer be allowed and deployment of war weapons such as outside strategic assets should be completely stopped", Kim said. Taking matters into their own hands, Kim and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in held a symbolic ceremony to link their railway and road networks late December.

In a 30-minute speech, Kim declared that Pyongyang will "move towards complete denuclearisation" but "may have to seek another way" if the USA maintains sanctions on the nuclear-armed country. Kim called for increasing electricity power generation in the country that battles chronic power shortages. Sanctions have also been strengthened since the meeting with Mr Trump. Private analysts have accused North Korea of continuing nuclear and missile development, citing details from commercial satellite imagery.

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