North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said, “Let me make clear once more that I’m resolutely determined to work with the government of South Korea in writing a new chapter in the history of our people, a chapter of peace and mutual prosperity.”
According to a report in North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun on Apr. 13, Kim said this during an address on the second day of the 1st Meeting of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly, on Apr. 12, that “the Workers’ Party of Korea and the North Korean government will continue to work seriously and patiently for the continuing development of inter-Korean relations and to achieve the peaceful unification of our nation.”
“The US is coercing the South Korean government to slow things down and is scheming to yoke the implementation of inter-Korean agreements to its policy of pressuring the North through sanctions,” Kim said. Along with raising the need to “wrap up an unpleasant episode,” Kim said that the South Korean government must “bring an end to its policy of depending on foreign powers and subordinate everything to improving inter-Korean relations.”
In connection with this, Kim effectively called on South Korean President Moon Jae-in to increase his independence from the US so that he can make meaningful progress on implementing the Apr. 27 Panmunjom Declaration and the Sept. 19 Pyongyang Declaration.
First of all, Kim said, “The South Korean government needs to become an advocate of the Korean people’s interests, instead of acting like a meddlesome ‘mediator’ or ‘facilitator.’” Kim went on to say that the South Korean government “needs to identify with our position and resolution and to act accordingly” and urged it “to make a bold decision that shows its sincerity not through words, but through practical actions.”
Kim’s remarks have two implications. First, Kim was expressing his frustration with South Korea’s failure to accelerate exchange and cooperation (on three major economic cooperation projects, namely the Kaesong Industrial Complex, tourism to Mt. Kumgang, and highway and railroad links). Even though South Korean cooperation is blocked by the strict sanctions that the UN and the US have imposed on the North, Kim called on the South to take meaningful action. Second, Kim was basically using North Korea’s characteristically tough rhetoric to ask Moon to become more proactive than he has been hitherto in changing the US’ hardline approach to the North.
Kim’s remarks also included instructions for North Korean officials: “No matter what challenges and obstacles lie in our path, our primary position and attitude must be the steadfast effort to keep the inter-Korean declarations intact and to faithfully implement them.”
Kim identified two of the obstacles that are blocking “progress in inter-Korean relations and the fruits of peace and prosperity.” First, he called for the “fundamental liquidation” of the “US’ anachronistic arrogance and its policy of hostility.” He also criticized the “thoughtless scheming of bellicose elements in the South Korean military.”
“Chairman Kim was assessing the status of inter-Korean relations and making his own claims, but he didn’t impose any [specific] conditions that South Korea is absolutely required to meet,” a former senior official in the South Korean government said on Apr. 14.
“But since Kim basically expressed his personal dissatisfaction with the small-scale military exercises that South Korea has conducted on its own after halting its large-scale joint exercises with the US, it appears that some adjustment will be necessary,” the former official added.