Here's North Korea's New Year's gift to the world

We didn’t wind up getting that Christmas present from Kim Jong-un that he promised. (Not even the vase that President Trump suggested.) While most of us were expecting either a weapon’s test or a missile launch, all remained quiet in the hermit nation for the remainder of the year. But this morning the dictator released a statement through his country’s state-run media outlets that appears to explain what the real “present” was going to be. As of today, North Korea is no longer considering itself bound to the weapons testing moratorium agreed to between Kim and Trump. (NY Times)

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, ​said his country no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, its official media reported on Wednesday, the strongest indication yet that the country could soon resume such tests…

North Korea has not conducted a long-range missile test or a nuclear test in more than two years. Mr. Kim had announced his moratorium at a time when he hoped negotiations with the United States — and his budding personal relationship with President Trump — would prompt the United States to begin lifting crippling sanctions.

Kim was still being rather vague about what he plans to do, but he promised that the world would soon see a “new strategic weapon” being deployed from the Korean Peninsula. (The Hill)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned the world will witness “a new strategic weapon” from the isolated nation in the “near future” as nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang are stuck in a stalemate.

According to reports of his remarks from North Korean state media, Kim blasted the U.S. for its “hostile policy” toward North Korea and said he had no expectation Washington would lift sanctions on his country soon.

Reached for comment at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump appeared to discount the threat, saying that he still believes Kim Jong-un is “a man of his word” and will find a way to close the deal. Of course, that’s pretty much been Trump’s modus operandi throughout this entire process. Keep flattering Kim while refusing to give in to his demands. And Trump will no doubt continue to play nice until it’s time get tough.

As long as North Korea is only talking about violating the agreement and not actually doing it, there’s still time to cut a deal. It’s even conceivable that Trump could put some small concession on the table along the lines of a partial withdrawal of one or two minor sanctions. That would at least give Kim something to take home and claim a victory if he’s willing to at least continue the moratorium, if not actually start dismantling his nukes.

But in reality, those nukes are the only thing keeping Kim in power, at least in his view. It’s almost impossible to conceive of him really carrying through on a comprehensive denuclearization program.

So if he doesn’t, what might the “new strategic weapon” be? Intelligence analysts seem to think it will be one of two things. Either he’ll light off a fully functional hydrogen bomb or he’ll test an ICBM with solid fuel propellant that can definitely make it all the way across the Pacific to the west coast of the United States. Either one would be provocative in the extreme and send us right back to where we were stuck before Trump reached out to him.

2020 may be starting off on an upward path domestically but in terms of our negotiations with North Korea, we’re already hitting a sour note. And with Russia and China courting Kim’s favor these days, I’m not particularly hopeful of the situation improving any time soon.