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Kim told brass he aimed for nuke recognition

Before Vietnam, leader said talks could get such status: Report
June 18,2019
Three months before his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told high-ranking military officials that he aimed to make North Korea recognized as a nuclear-capable state, according to a report by Voice of America (VOA) released on Monday.

Kim reportedly told generals and senior military officials of the North Korean People’s Army of his plans to meet with Trump for “the ultimate nuclear talks” and that they would be “the first step to elevating North Korea’s status as a global nuclear-capable state.”

Such plans were outlined in an allegedly confidential document dated to November 2018 published by the Chosun Workers’ Party Publisher and distributed to ranking North Korean military officials, which was recently obtained by VOA. It ordered that special lessons based on the plans in the document to build up North Korea as a nuclear state be taught to lower-ranking military officers through the second week of December, leading up to the second North-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.

The document, according to VOA, read that Kim said the United States is “afraid” of its nuclear capability and has been trying to negotiate on the next stage “in order to take away our nuclear weapons.”

He said that whatever the results of the negotiations with the United States, all hardships will be overcome and that North Korea should solidify its nuclear power to “obtain the ultimate result” of being recognized as a global nuclear state.

The VOA report indicates that Kim’s objective for the Hanoi summit may have been to obtain recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state.

The first summit between Kim and Trump on June 12 last year in Singapore produced a joint statement including a pledge for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in return for U.S. security guarantees for North Korea, but the second meeting in Hanoi ended abruptly on Feb. 28 without a deal, as the two sides failed to narrow their differences.

Kim said in his New Year’s address at the start of the year that it is the stance of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party and his government “to establish a new bilateral relationship that meets the demand of the new era as clarified in the June 12 [North Korea-U.S.] Joint Statement, build a lasting and durable peace regime and advance towards complete denuclearization.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told KRIV Fox 26 Houston Morning News in March that Kim Jong-un told him personally “no less than half a dozen times” that he would denuclearize. Yet Pompeo also said during the interview that “talk is cheap” and that it’s important to “actually begin to deliver on the commitments.”

The South Korean government said it couldn’t confirm the VOA report.

“It is not appropriate for our authorities to make determinations on such reports,” said Lee Sang-min, a spokesman of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, in a briefing Monday, and added that they will “review the authenticity of such a document.”

Kim In-tae, a North Korean defector and senior researcher at the Seoul-based Institute for National Security Strategy, said Monday that such documents are published in North Korea by the Chosun Workers’ Party Publisher “when important content has to be conveyed to ranking officials of the Workers’ Party or the army. It appears that internal preparations had been taking place ahead of the second North-U.S. summit.”

Despite Kim Jong-un making public internationally and domestically his intentions for denuclearization, analyst Kim In-tae pointed out that during the third plenary meeting of the seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party in April last year, the North’s leader indicated that Pyongyang’s Byungjin policy goals of parallel development of the economy and nuclear weapons had been achieved, and that all efforts would be concentrated on economic development.

“But with the talk of denuclearization after the first North-U.S. summit in Singapore summit last year, there would have been unrest within North Korea, especially within the military,” analyst Kim added.

“The emphasis on the completion of the nuclear weapons has an aspect of trying to appease [North Korean party officials] internally,” said Kim. “North Korean state media has never made official internally the denuclearization [position]. However, we will have to observe a bit longer to see whether Kim Jong-un puts more weight on denuclearization or becoming a nuclear state.”

BY SARAH KIM, BAEK MIN-JEONG [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]