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Kim ready to meet Trump but warns of ‘new path' if sanctions continue

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North Korean leader also warns in New Year's speech that he may take alternative path if sanctions continue

SEOUL : North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said yesterday he can meet US President Donald Trump anytime to achieve their goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, but warned he may take an alternative path if US sanctions continue.

In his New Year address, Mr Kim said denuclearisation is his "firm will" and suggested for the first time that North Korea would no longer make nuclear weapons, but also urged Washington to take action to speed up the stalled diplomatic process.

North Korea might be "compelled to explore a new path" to defend its sovereignty if the US "seeks to force something upon us unilaterally ... and remains unchanged in its sanctions and pressure", Mr Kim said in his nationally televised address.

The comments are likely to fuel growing scepticism over whether Pyongyang intends to give up the nuclear weapons programme that it has long considered essential to its security.

Mr Kim and Mr Trump vowed to work towards denuclearisation at their June summit in Singapore, but little has been done.

Pyongyang has demanded Washington lift sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War in response to its initial, unilateral steps toward denuclearisation, including dismantling its only known nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

Those measures were in line with its resolve to "no longer make, use or spread" nuclear weapons, Mr Kim said, indicating a possible stop to weapons production for the first time.

Although Pyongyang did not conduct nuclear or missile tests last year, satellite images have pointed to continued activity at the North's related facilities.

US officials say North Korea's initial steps are unconfirmed and can be easily reversed, calling for strict sanctions until full, verifiable disarmament.

Analysts said Mr Kim's message sent a clear signal that North Korea is willing to stay in talks - but on its terms.

Dressed in a Western-style suit and navy-silver tie, Mr Kim sat on a couch against a backdrop of bookshelves and portraits of his late father and grandfather.

"He appeared more confident than ever... which also implies he thinks he has the upper edge in the negotiations with the United States," said Prof Shin Beom Chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.- REUTERS