Kim Jong-un told the leaders of the communist Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) last week that one thousand summits with President Donald Trump “will not be able to move us one iota,” then made a surprise visit Tuesday to North Korean air force troops, the first military appearance since November.
Rodong Sinmun, the state newspaper of North Korea, reported that Kim said he was “very displeased” with the “trend” of Washington demanding that North Korea completely dismantle its illegal nuclear weapons program before lifting sanctions and that he had no need for something as “trivial” as pushing for lifting sanctions instead of seeking to enrich his regime despite them.
Pyongyang published the complete text of Kim’s speech to the party, an address following the renewal of his tenure as totalitarian leader, on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Kim attended air force flight drills and took photographs with North Korean troops, an indication that he would shift his focus from diplomacy and towards military belligerence once more.
Kim reportedly said at the military event that “it is important to make a sudden inspection of the regular readiness of unit as a fight of the air and anti-aircraft field is waged without previous notice.”
Kim allegedly ordered the pilots to make “skilled and experienced flights including takeoff, air combat actions and landing,” and “expressed great satisfaction” at their abilities.
The newspaper made clear Kim intended the visit to show the world that his pilots can “carry out any combat task irrespective of conditions and environment.” The exercises conducted Tuesday were specifically intended to thwart an aerial invasion of Pyongyang, the newspaper said.
South Korean newswire service Yonhap noted that Kim has stayed away from military public activity since November; North Korea claims that Kim personally supervises and participates in military activity on a regular basis. At the time, state media claimed Kim was “supervising” the creation of an unspecified “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon,” likely a violation of international sanctions, though the government report was so vague about the nature of the weapon that experts could not confirm that possibility.
Shortly before allegedly leading pilot training on Tuesday, Kim delivered a speech titled “On Socialist Construction and the Internal and External Policies of the Government of the Republic at the Present Stage” to the nation’s rubber-stamp legislature. Prior to its delivery, Kim made several public remarks warning of hardship ahead and calling the current period “tense,” alluding to talks with America. The text of Friday’s speech does not allude to the situation; it addresses it clearly, calling sanctions an “intolerable challenge to us” and dismissing the possibility of new negotiations between the two countries.
“All the fellow countrymen in north and south and abroad should, staking the destiny and future of the nation, resolutely check and foil the moves of the United States,” Kim demanded.
Kim claimed that he had entered the year open to new diplomacy with the United States, but “the second DPRK-US summit talks held in Hanoi last February raised strong questions about whether the steps we took under our strategic, courageous decision were right”:
At the talks we expressed our resolve to set the essential stages and course to be followed without fail for the implementation of the June 12 DPRK-US Joint Statement in the interests of both sides and to take more prudent and trustworthy steps, and looked forward to a positive response of the United States.
But the United States came to the negotiating table after thinking only about completely unrealizable methods.
By that sort of thinking, the United States will not be able to move us one iota nor get what it wants at all, even if it sits with us a hundred times, a thousand times.
Trump and Kim met in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, for a scheduled two-day summit to discuss thawing relations and ending North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program. Kim reportedly insisted that the United States lift its sanctions on the country before Pyongyang abided by international law, prompting Trump to walk out of the summit a day early.
“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters.
On Tuesday, Kim offered courteously that President Trump was correct to repeatedly note that he and Kim enjoy each other’s company: “Personal relations between he and I are not hostile like the relationship between the two countries, and we still maintain good relations, and if we want, we can send and receive letters asking for each other’s regards any time.” Liking each other, however, is not enough in the dictator’s eyes. To that end, Kim concluded he would not pursue any more summits.
“There is no need for me to obsess over the summit talks with the United States out of thirst for the lifting of sanctions,” he stated. “The US-style dialogue of unilaterally pushing its demands does not fit us, nor are we interested in it.”
The publication of Kim’s speech comes amid rumors that he will meet with President Vladimir Putin as soon as next week to discuss economic investment. Putin invited Kim to Moscow last May, but neither side managed to schedule such a visit before Kim scheduled another summit with President Trump. This week, however, Putin will travel to China seeking to bolster his own beleaguered economy, prompting reports that he will make a stop in Pyongyang before Beijing’s Belt and Road summit.
South Korean outlets speculated that Kim is seeking to strengthen ties to China after his plan to get Washington to lift sanctions and promote tourism to North Korea failed.
Multiple reports from the past two years indicate that Russia regularly helps North Korea violate United Nations sanctions.