Trump thinks Kim Jong Un is a ‘man of his word’ after North Korea threatens new weapon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in an undated photo released on Dec 31, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AP) - US President Donald Trump said Mr Kim Jong Un had signed a contract about denuclearisation and that he thought the North Korean leader was a "man of his word", in response to Mr Kim saying on Wednesday (Jan 1) he would introduce a "new strategic weapon" in the near future.

Hours after Mr Kim said his country would continue developing nuclear programmes, Mr Trump said he got along with Mr Kim and "we have to do what we have to do".

"But he did sign a contract, he did sign an agreement talking about denuclearisation. ... That was done in Singapore, and I think he's a man of his word, so we're going to find out," Mr Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida as he walked into a New Year's party.

Mr Kim convened a rare four-day meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's policy-making committee since Saturday as the US had not responded to his repeated calls for concessions to reopen negotiations, dismissing a Dec 31 deadline last year for the US to offer fresh concessions on sanctions relief as artificial.

There were no grounds for North Korea to be bound any longer by the self-declared nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test moratorium as the United States makes "gangster-like demands" including continuing joint military drills with South Korea, adopting cutting edge weapons and imposing sanctions, Mr Kim said, according to KCNA on Wednesday.

He pledged to further develop North Korea's nuclear deterrent but left the door open for dialogue, saying the "scope and depth" of that deterrent will be "properly coordinated depending on" the attitude of the US.

"The world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future," Mr Kim said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"We will reliably put on constant alert the powerful nuclear deterrent capable of containing the nuclear threats from the US and guaranteeing our long-term security."

Mr Kim had previously said he might have to seek a "new path" if Washington fails to meet his expectations. US military commanders said Pyongyang's actions could include the testing of an ICBM, which it has halted since 2017, alongside nuclear warhead tests.

Tension had been rising ahead of the year-end deadline last year as North Korea conducted a series of weapons tests and waged a war of words with Mr Trump.

The two leaders after their first summit in Singapore in June 2018 issued a vague aspirational goal on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without when and how it would occur.

The nuclear talks have made little headway though Mr Kim and Mr Trump met twice after the Singapore summit. A working-level meeting in Stockholm in October fell apart, with a North Korean chief negotiator accusing US officials of sticking to their old stance.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped North Korea would choose peace over war after Mr Kim's announcement on Wednesday.

"So, seeing that reporting publicly, it remains the case that we hope that Chairman Kim will take a different course," Mr Pompeo told Fox News in an interview.

"We're hopeful that... Chairman Kim will make the right decision - he'll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war," Mr Pompeo said.

In a separate interview with CBS News, Mr Pompeo was asked whether he was alarmed by Mr Kim's statements.

"If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump, that is deeply disappointing," Mr Pompeo said.

"He made those commitments to President Trump in exchange for President Trump agreeing not to conduct large-scale military exercises. We've lived up to our commitments. We continue to hold out hope that he will live up to his as well."

Mr Trump, who became the first US leader to meet a North Korean leader in 2018, has repeatedly held up the moratorium, in place since 2017, as evidence that his policy of engagement was working.

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