SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – North Korean state news agency KCNA reported on Wednesday that the nation’s leader Kim Jong Un has urged enhanced military might and greater nuclear war deterrence. This came as a rare congress of the ruling party concluded after eight days of policy discussions.
The Eighth Party Congress took place less than two weeks before US President-elect Joe Biden assumes office amid a prolonged deadlock in discussions aimed at bringing to an end Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for the cessation of US sanctions.
“We must do everything we can to increase nuclear war deterrence even further as we build the strongest military capability,” KCNA quoted the leader as saying during the close of the congress.
After he announced a self-declared moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in 2018, Kim has sought continued production of nuclear weapons and has come out with a series of smaller missiles. He also unveiled the nation’s largest ICBM during a parade in October.
Separately, the leader’s sister, who is also a member of the party Central Committee, flayed South Korea’s military for keeping tabs on a parade in Pyongyang. In a statement published by KCNA, she said it was an expression of the South’s “hostile approach” towards the North.
On Monday, the South Korean military said it had found signs that North Korea had held a nocturnal military parade on Sunday.
The leader’s remarks come after South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to help engineer a breakthrough in stalled denuclearisation negotiations.
Kim Yo Jong has been serving as her brother’s unofficial second-in-command and her remarks ignoring Moon’s call for talks is evidence of her key role in the regime, said Moon Seong-mook, a former South Korean military official and head of the Unification Strategy Center in Seoul.
“She didn’t mention dialogues with South Korea at all, even though the statement came a day after Moon’s New Year’s speech, which hints that talks or meetings are distant,” he said.
The congress results highlight how the leader is continuing to tighten state control over society and the economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, a North Korean economy expert at the US-based Stimson Center think-tank.
“Kim’s report is abundantly clear in stating that he wants the state to be the main planner and decision-maker not just over the general direction of the economy, but on a much more detailed level than that,” he said on Tuesday.