Hints for 2019: Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address

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In his January 1st New Year’s speech, Kim Jong Un was almost relentlessly positive in discussing DPRK-US relations, a topic that took up an unusually large portion of the entire address. Rather than reprise the complaints about the negotiations with the US that had been the focus of numerous Pyongyang commentaries in recent months—almost all of them aimed at the external audience and not replayed on domestic media—Kim instead recounted his upbeat personal experience and almost unalloyed expectations as a result of the June 2018 Singapore summit. By doing so, he has deliberately left himself and President Trump maximum space for conducting negotiations leading up to a second summit. At the same time, Kim emphasized for the internal North Korean audience that he is personally committed to moving ahead with the US, and at least guardedly optimistic that progress is possible. This posture was in some ways similar to Kim’s public, personal commitment in January 2018 to engaging ROK President Moon Jae-in, which resulted in rapid progress on the inter-Korean front early in the year.

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