While Kim Jong Un said North Korea will not use nuclear weapons unless attacked and vowed nonproliferation on Sunday, most observers caution against seeing this as a change in policy.
In the 14,119-word Work Report of the Party Congress, Kim called for the “denuclearization of the world.” This is the first time that the North Korean leader has mentioned the word “denuclearization” in an official statement.
The report defined its diplomatic relations as a responsible powerful nuclear state, including the duty to implement non-proliferation.
“DPRK will improve and normalize relations with nations that respect our independent authority, even if they were once hostile in the past,” the report reads.
However, the report also included anti-imperialist slogans, criticizing the U.S. as the origin of the nuclear threat.
Despite Kim’s remarks on not using nuclear weapons without a preemptive attack from foreign countries, experts said said the speech suggested nothing new.
“Kim Jong Un’s remarks are almost same as Kim Il Sung’s declaration at Sixth Party Congress in 1980,” Cheong Seong-chang, senior researcher at Sejong Institute said. “It seems like Pyongyang is pessimistic that neither Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will not ensure (North Korea’s) better relations with the U.S.”
While there has been a report that U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper inquired about South Korea’s position on possible peace talks between Washington and Pyongyang, Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute noted that Kim’s speech didn’t include any reference to this.
“Kim Jong Un urged international society to recognize North Korea as a nuclear state by saying ‘denuclearization of the world,’” said Go.
Currently, the U.S., UK, Russia, France and China are the recognized as nuclear states.
“Then they want to start negotiations with the U.S.,” Go said, saying this position is not that different from Pyongyang’s existing position.
Choi Jong-kun, associate professor of political science at Yonsei University said Kim Jong Un sent a message to the U.S., by mentioning “nonproliferation.”
“North Korea (was suggesting) having denuclearization negotiations with the U.S.,” Choi said Sunday on JTBC broadcasting.
“While the denuclearization talks are not ongoing, North Korea declared its intent not to proliferate nuclear material to the Middle East region and terrorist groups.”
This was mentioned at the statement revealed in January after fourth nuclear test.
Meanwhile, South Korea maintained its position, with the Ministry of Unification (MoU) stating on Sunday and the Ministry of National Defense on Monday that North Korea is not a nuclear state.
Since the U.S. is unlikely to acknowledge North Korea’s demand, Go said Pyongyang won’t conduct its fifth nuclear test in the near future.
“Kim Jong Un would understand that another nuclear test won’t result in nuclear state recognition,” Go said. “For Kim, it would be better to conduct a nuclear test when the new U.S. president is revealed.”
While the MoU spokesperson told journalists that North Korea’s sincere change on denuclearization is the condition of inter-Korean talks, the White House press secretary on Friday urged North Korea to “come out of the wilderness” by giving up its nuclear ambitions.
“To resume the dialogue channel such as the Six-Party Talks, North Korea should prove its nuclear freeze, by showing visible measures,” Go said.
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