North Korean leader vows to strengthen military, limit virus

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to further strengthen his military capabilities, maintain draconian anti-virus measures and promote economic improvement in a speech. at an important political conference this week, state media reported on Saturday.

State media coverage of Mr Kim’s speech at a five-day plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party did not make any specific comments on his dealings with the United States and South Korea. Some experts say this implies that Kim is not interested in resuming talks with Washington and Seoul anytime soon and wants to close the country’s borders while seeking a strong self-reliant economy. more to overcome difficulties related to the pandemic.

“The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean Peninsula and international politics have strongly pushed forward the country’s plans to build national defense,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying. we”.

According to KCNA, Kim ordered the production of powerful, modern weapon systems to improve the army’s forces and called on the army to “absolutely and faithfully remain loyal” to the ruling party he leads. according to KCNA.

KCNA said the plenary meeting had set a “tactical direction” for North Korea’s foreign relations, including with South Korea, but did not elaborate. It does not refer to the United States.

The meeting, which reviews past projects and identifies new policies, took place last month when Kim marked 10 years in power. Since inheriting control following the death of his authoritarian father in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has established absolute power in his homeland and consolidated his nuclear and missile arsenal. But North Korea’s economy has suffered major setbacks over the past two years due to border closures caused by the pandemic, persistent UN sanctions and the impact of natural disasters.

There is no sign of political instability in North Korea, but some experts say leader Kim’s long-term stability could be called into question if current difficulties continue. High-level political conferences such as the plenary give Kim the opportunity to cement the unity behind his leadership and show that he is firmly in control of the government. But it is unclear whether such meetings offer any fundamental solution to North Korea’s difficulties, which are largely attributed to decades of mismanagement, self-imposed isolation. and its nuclear dynamics, has made it one of the most heavily sanctioned nations in the world.

During a party congress last January, Kim admitted his previous economic development plans had failed and said his country faced “worst ever” situation. now”.

But during this week’s plenary session, Kim announced progress in new development plans, saying last year was “a year of great victory” and this year’s goals were “a great life-and-death struggle”. great” needs to be achieved. Kim cites progress in the fields of agriculture, construction, electricity, mining, forestry and many others, which cannot be independently verified.

According to South Korean estimates, North Korea’s trade with China, its largest trading partner and an economic pipeline, has fallen by about 80% in 2020 before shrinking again by two-thirds in nine months. early last year. In 2020, North Korea’s economy suffered its steepest contraction since 1997 while the country’s grain output also fell to its lowest level since Kim took power in 2011. Seoul officials say North Korea’s grain output improved slightly last year.

During the plenary meeting, Kim ordered officials to prioritize emergency operations against the pandemic, saying negligence and loopholes would not be tolerated. Analysts say Mr Kim is concerned that his country’s fragile public healthcare infrastructure cannot handle a large virus outbreak – though he has maintained a dubious claim that North Korea has no corona virus.

Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang said: “North Korea is expected to continue to blockade its border and use self-reliance while carrying out essential trade to a minimum with China due to the turn of events. new body (Omicron) and the continuation of the pandemic worldwide”. at the private Sejong Institute.

Cheong said there was a “very low chance” that North Korea would accept US calls to restart nuclear diplomacy or South Korea’s call for a symbolic political declaration ending the 1950 Korean War- 53 as a way to relieve stress.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said: “North Korea has been able to endure its draconian border restrictions and claim success of ‘juche’ self-reliance because of trade and covert assistance from China helps to meet minimal national needs”.

The US-led foreign policy of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic and political benefits collapsed in 2019 when then-US President Donald Trump rejected North Korea’s demands. Kim on easing sanctions in return for partial denuclearization steps. Kim has since threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal and introduce high-tech weapons aimed at the United States and its allies.


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