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Kim calls for 'diplomatic, military countermeasures'

N Korean leader's comments come ahead of deadline for Washington to change its stance on stalled nuclear talks

Seoul

NORTH KOREAN leader Kim Jong-un has called for "diplomatic and military countermeasures", state media said on Tuesday, ahead of a year-end deadline for Washington to change its stance on stalled nuclear talks with Pyongyang.

His latest comments were made during a meeting of top ruling party officials in Pyongyang on Monday.

Mr Kim spoke for seven hours during the ruling Workers' Party meeting, state media Korean Central News Agency said in a report released on Tuesday, calling for measures to rebuild its economy and "diplomatic and military countermeasures for firmly preserving the sovereignty and security" of the isolated nation.

The party meeting will continue to review an unspecified "important document", it added.

Talks on denuclearising the Korean peninsula have been largely deadlocked since the second summit between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed in Hanoi at the start of this year.

Pyongyang has demanded the easing of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, while Washington insists it takes more tangible steps towards giving them up.

Speculation has mounted that Pyongyang could abandon its moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile tests - although its ominous threat of a "Christmas gift" to the US appears to have fizzled. The North may see the period running up to Seoul's April parliamentary election next year as "a window for seeking maximum benefits for minimal concessions" and try to escalate tensions, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

"But Kim does not want to risk conflict with the US or the loss of Chinese support with excessive provocations," he told AFP.

So Pyongyang may prolong diplomatic deadlock until it becomes clear who will lead the next US administration, he added.

Mr Kim is set to make a closely watched New Year address on Wednesday which is likely to offer a glimpse of a "new path" he has vowed to take if the US fails to meet his deadline to soften its stance over denuclearisation.

In his 2019 speech, Mr Kim said he might have to change course if Washington sticks to its pressure campaign and demands unilateral action, while stressing a "self-reliant" economy, a drive he has launched amid tightening sanctions.

The US was on track to ignore a year-end deadline set by Mr Kim, which Washington has downplayed as artificial, to show more flexibility to reopen talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped North Korea would choose peace over confrontation.

"We still maintain our view that we can find a path forward to convince the leadership in North Korea that their best course of action is to create a better opportunity for their people by getting rid of their nuclear weapons," Mr Pompeo told Fox News on Monday. AFP, REUTERS