North Korea’s Kim vows to increase military and maintain virus restrictions | News, sports, jobs

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, speaking at a major political conference this week, pledged to further strengthen his military capabilities, maintain draconian anti-virus measures and work hard to improve the economy, state media reported today.

A state media report on Kim’s speech at the five-day plenary session of the ruling Labor Party contained no specific comments on how the US and South Korea were dealt with. Some experts say this implies that Kim has no interest in resuming talks with Washington and Seoul anytime soon, and would rather keep his country’s borders closed while seeking a stronger self-contained economy to overcome pandemic-related troubles .

“The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean peninsula and international politics have called for our plans to build national defense to be pursued vigorously without delay.” Kim was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency.

Kim ordered the production of more powerful, modern weapon systems to improve his armed forces and demanded that “Absolute loyalty and fidelity” to the ruling party he leads, so KCNA.

KCNA said the plenary session was planned “Tactical instructions” for North Korea’s external relations, including with South Korea, but not specified. He didn’t mention the United States.

The meeting, designed to review past projects and set new guidelines, took place as Kim celebrated 10 years in power last month. Since inheriting control after his dictator’s death in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has built absolute power at home and strengthened his nuclear and missile arsenal. But North Korea’s economy has suffered severe setbacks in the past two years due to pandemic border closings, ongoing UN sanctions and the aftermath of natural disasters.

There are no signs of political instability in North Korea, but some experts say the long-term stability of Kim’s leadership could be called into question if current troubles persist. High profile political conferences like the plenary session give Kim an opportunity to cement the unity behind his leadership and show that he has a firm grip on the government. However, it is unclear whether such meetings offer fundamental solutions to North Korea’s difficulties, mainly due to decades of mismanagement, self-imposed isolation, and its nuclear drive that has made it one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world.

During a party conference in January last year, Kim admitted his previous economic development plans had failed and said his country was facing one “The worst of all time” Position.

But during this week’s plenary session, Kim claimed to be making progress on the new development plans, saying it was last year “A year of great victory” and that this year’s goals are “A great struggle for life and death” that has to be achieved. Kim cited advances in agriculture, construction, electricity, mining, forestry, and many other sectors that could not be independently verified.

According to South Korean estimates, North Korea’s trade with China, its largest trading partner and an economic pipeline, shrank by around 80 percent in 2020 before collapsing again by two-thirds in the first nine months of last year. In 2020, North Korea’s economy suffered its biggest decline since 1997, while its grain production fell to its lowest level since Kim came to power in 2011. Seoul officials said grain production in the north has improved slightly over the past year.

During the plenary session, Kim ordered officials to prioritize emergency campaigns against pandemics, saying negligence and loopholes will not be tolerated. Analysts say Kim fears his country’s fragile public health infrastructure could not handle a major virus outbreak – despite maintaining a questionable claim that North Korea is coronavirus-free.

“Due to the new (omicron) variant and the global pandemic, North Korea will probably continue to seal off its borders and fall back on independence while at the same time doing a minimum of significant trade with China.” said Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst from the Sejong Institute.

Cheong said there is “A very small possibility” that North Korea will accept US demands for a resumption of nuclear diplomacy or South Korea’s demands for a symbolic, political declaration to end the Korean War in 1950-53 to ease tensions.

US-led diplomacy aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in return for economic and political gain collapsed in 2019 when then-President Donald Trump rejected Kim’s calls for sweeping sanctions in return for partial denuclearization moves. Kim has since threatened to expand its nuclear arsenal and introduce high-tech weapons against the US and its allies.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.

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