TOKYO -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would be prepared to meet President Donald Trump for a third summit, but only if the United States fundamentally changes its approach, and warned that his patience was running out.
In a speech to the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, Kim offered no hints of new concessions or ideas from his regime after the failure of February's summit, putting the blame squarely on the United States and throwing the ball into Washington's court.
Kim made the comments Friday during a session of North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, which made a slew of personnel changes that bolstered his diplomatic lineup. His speech came hours after Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in Washington and agreed on the importance of nuclear talks with North Korea.
"We of course place importance on resolving problems through dialogue and negotiations. But U.S.-style dialogue of unilaterally pushing its demands doesn't fit us, and we have no interest in it," Kim said during the speech.
Experts said that while the speech kept the window open for diplomacy, it didn't offer much hope for substantive progress, while all the time North Korea continues to expand its nuclear arsenal.
"If the U.S. adopts a correct posture and comes forward for the third [North Korea]-U.S. summit with a certain methodology that can be shared with us, we can think of holding one more talk," Kim said.
In his speech, Kim repeated earlier claims that North Korea's crippled economy would persevere through heavy international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program and that he wouldn't "obsess over summitry with the United States out of thirst for sanctions relief."
"Anyway, we will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year but I think it will definitely be difficult to get such a good opportunity as the previous summit."
But Kim told the Assembly that the United States was miscalculating that it can bring his government to its knees through sanctions and "maximum pressure," adding that Washington was making suggestions that are "absolutely impractical."
"If it keeps thinking that way, it will never be able to move [North Korea] even a knuckle nor gain any interests no matter how many times it may sit for talks with [North Korea]," he said in remarks carried Saturday by the state Korean Central News Agency.
At the Hanoi summit in Vietnam, North Korea offered to close down a key nuclear site in return for the lifting of almost all the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Trump asked Kim to "go big" by turning over his entire nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal and production capability, in return for a "bright future" economically.
In tweets on Saturday, Trump described his relationship with Kim as "excellent" and said he would be open for a third summit to "fully understand where we each stand." But Trump offered no new proposals.
"North Korea has tremendous potential for ... extraordinary growth, economic success and riches under the leadership of Chairman Kim. I look forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!" he tweeted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had continued to have "conversations" with North Korea even after Hanoi.
"I'm confident that what we did in Hanoi put us in a better place to move forward," he told reporters on a trip to South America. "Chairman Kim made a commitment, he made the commitment to me personally no fewer than half a dozen times and to President Trump that he wanted to denuclearize."
In his speech, Kim also complained that the U.S. had resumed military exercises with South Korea this year, despite what he said was a direct commitment by Trump to suspend them.
"These seriously rattle us," he said. "As wind is bound to bring waves, the U.S. open hostile policy toward [North Korea] will naturally bring our corresponding acts."
But Kim did not spell out what his response might be, after ominously warning in a New Year's Day speech that he might be forced to seek a "new way" if the U.S. did not drop its unilateral demands and sanctions pressure.
He also reiterated that his problem was with Trump's administration, not the president himself.
"But as President Trump keeps saying, the personal ties between me and him are not hostile like the relations between the two countries and we still maintain good relations, as to be able to exchange letters asking about health anytime if we want," he said.
On Friday, the Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim was re-elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the nation's most important decision-making body, during a session of the Supreme People's Assembly that praised his "outstanding ideological and theoretical wisdom and experienced and seasoned leadership."
Experts say the new appointments may be a sign of Kim's desire to keep recent months of up-and-down nuclear diplomacy alive rather than returning to the threats and weapons tests that characterized 2017, when many feared war on the Korean Peninsula.
But the lack of substantial disarmament commitments from the North and the deepening impasse in nuclear negotiations have fueled doubts over whether Kim would ever voluntarily relinquish an arsenal he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Van Jackson, a former Pentagon official who now teaches at Victoria University in New Zealand, said time was on North Korea's side.
"A Trump-Kim personal relationship benefits Kim and North Korea, not the United States," he said. "So it's no surprise that Kim is open to the pomp and pageantry of a third summit."
But Jackson said there was no sign Kim was willing to make the nuclear concessions demanded by Trump's "uber-hawks," implying that the summit-driven process will continue to drag out without bringing nuclear stability to the Korean Peninsula.
Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow in the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, also saw no signs of a change in Kim's negotiating position -- that North Korea expected to see "corresponding" concessions from the U.S. in return for its moratorium on nuclear and missile testing announced last year.
The only difference now is that Kim has given the U.S. until the end of the year.
"A lack of U.S.-North Korea progress in the meantime will allow Kim to continue the quantitative expansion of his nuclear forces," Panda said. "He doesn't need to test nuclear devices or missiles to continue building his forces out."
South Korea's Moon met Trump in Washington on Thursday in a bid to keep the dialogue alive, and the presidential Blue House said in a statement Saturday that it would "do what we can in order to maintain the current momentum for dialogue, and help negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea resume at an early date."
But Kim was sharply critical of the South Korean government.
"The South should not act as an 'overstepping mediator' or a 'facilitator' and should rather get its mind straight as a member of the [Korean] nation and boldly speak up for the interest of the nation," Kim said.
There would be no improvement in North-South ties unless South Korea ended military exercises with the United States, he said, "and unless a fundamental liquidation is put to the anachronistic arrogance and hostile policy of the U.S., which creates a deliberate hurdle in the improvement of ties while coming forward with unilateral gangsterlike demands."
Cheon Seong-whun, who served as national security adviser to former conservative South Korean President Park Geun-hye, said he saw a "deadlock."
"Kim Jong Un says he will stick to his position and is pressuring Washington to make concessions," he said. "It's a nonstarter."
Information for this article was contributed by Simon Denyer, Min Joo Kim and Brian Murphy of The Washington Post; and by Kim Tong-hyung of The Associated Press.
A Section on 04/14/2019
Print Headline: N. Korean warns U.S. to 'correct' its posture, but Kim suggests 3rd Trump summit