STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Two years of diplomacy between the presidents of the U.S. and North Korea produced one large substantive success from the U.S. point of view. During the period that President Trump has been meeting, exchanging letters with and constantly flattering Kim Jong Un, North Korea has kept a promise not to test nuclear weapons or long-range missiles. Now Kim says that's over. In a speech to the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, Kim says North Korea no longer feels bound by that promise. He is disappointed that talks produced no long-term agreement with the U.S.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn has been following this story for years. He joins us from Seoul. Hey there, Anthony.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.
INSKEEP: And happy new year. What does Kim say his country's going to do now?
KUHN: Well, in his typical dramatic fashion, he said that the North will take shocking action and will introduce a new strategic weapon soon, which he did not identify. But it was very clear that he was not breaking off negotiations with the U.S. Now, let's hear what North Korean people heard from their state television broadcaster.
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UNIDENTIFIED TV ANCHOR: (Speaking Korean).
KUHN: OK, so in that clip, a TV anchor is quoting Kim, saying that North Korea instituted this moratorium on nuclear and missile testing unilaterally over the past two years. The U.S. did not respond positively. Instead, it kept on having military drills with South Korea, shipping them advanced weapons. And so there's really no point in North Korea sticking unilaterally to that commitment any longer. And Kim said that the U.S. was chilling North Korean efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament - not stopping, but chilling.
He also didn't say they were going to resume testing right away. He said on several occasions, they're going to attempt a frontal breakthrough - in other words, defeat U.S. attempts to isolate them and sanction them into submission. And he said that the U.S. is basically now just stalling on negotiations while keeping hostile policies in place.
INSKEEP: You know, it sounds like Kim could've done a lot more than he did. There were a lot of people in the U.S. expecting an actual missile test, for example. That hasn't happened yet. But this is a change from what he's been saying, right?
KUHN: It's a change. I really don't think it's a break from last year's policies. He'd been building up with all these political theatrics - riding white horses and holding these long party meetings - suggesting that he was coming to a critical juncture where he was going to make a strategic choice. Clearly, we're going to see a more hard-line policy in the next year, but he's also leaving the door open for concessions by the U.S., I think.
INSKEEP: How is the U.S. responding?
KUHN: Well, President Trump said to reporters at a New Year's Eve party that he thinks Kim is still a man of his word. Let's hear what he said.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He did sign an agreement talking about denuclearization. And that was signed. No. 1 sentence - denuclearization. That was done in Singapore. And I think he's a man of his word. So we're going to find out, but I think he's a man of his word.
KUHN: Now, of course, the declaration that Trump and Kim signed in Singapore did talk about working towards denuclearization but said nothing about what that actually means, how they're going to do it or when. Pyongyang now insists that the ball is in Washington's court, hence, you know, what they get as their Christmas present depends on their attitude. They say that Washington has presented the North with proposals for moving ahead, but they haven't made any of those public.
INSKEEP: Anthony, thanks so much.
KUHN: You bet, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn reporting today from Seoul.
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