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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's Kim ready to meet Trump again 'anytime'

Leader promises not to test nuclear weapons in New Year's speech

SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday said he is willing to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump to advance their denuclearization talks and improve relations.

Kim, in a New Year's speech, vowed that his country will not make or test any more nuclear weapons, reaffirming his commitment to seeking complete denuclearization. He said his unprecedented summit with Trump last June was a historic moment between the "two most hostile countries in the world" and expressed his wish to develop ties further.

"I am ready to meet the U.S. president again anytime," Kim said in his address, which was broadcast by the Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang's mouthpiece. Kim pledged to "make efforts to have results welcomed by the international community," stressing, "It is my strong will to establish a sustainable and concrete peace regime and move toward complete denuclearization."

As things stand, the denuclearization negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea are at a stalemate. Pyongyang has not responded to Washington's requests for working-level meetings to discuss the process, and the U.S. has dialed up its economic sanctions.

Kim also said he is open to restarting the Kaesong Industrial Complex -- a joint project with South Korea -- and resuming tours to Mount Kumgang. Kaesong, which was set up with the South's capital and the North's labor, has been suspended since 2016 due to rising military tensions. Visits to the mountain stopped a decade ago after a South Korean tourist was shot by a North Korean soldier.

Despite his conciliatory tone, the young dictator criticized Washington's sanctions on Pyongyang, saying his government would have no choice but to find a new path if the U.S. keeps the pressure on. Kim said his isolated country can develop its socialist economy without help from the international community.

Experts say 2019 is likely to bring neither major progress nor a dramatic breakdown in the denuclearization drive. Some see the U.S. losing interest in the issue and believe North Korea is unlikely to abandon its nuclear arsenal.

"Neither U.S. President Donald Trump nor North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will likely be motivated to make onerous, near-term demands on the other, helping keep tempers and tensions in check," said Scott Seaman, a director at Eurasia Group. "North Korea-related issues did not receive much attention from Democrats during campaigning for congressional midterm elections in November, nor did North Korea figure prominently in speeches that Trump gave at rallies and other venues in support of Republican candidates."

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