North Korean leader reiterates rearmament at party meeting – Boston News, Weather, Sports

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doubled down on his build-up in the face of what he described as an aggravating security environment as he wrapped up a major political conference held when U.S. and South Korean officials said North Korea is ramping up preparations for one another nuclear test that may be imminent.

Kim’s comments, published by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency on Saturday, contained no direct criticism of the United States or rival South Korea amid an ongoing deadlock on nuclear diplomacy during the three-day discussions that ended Friday.

Kim defended his accelerated weapons development as a legitimate exercise of sovereign rights in self-defense and identified other “militant missions” for his armed forces and military scientists to pursue, the agency said. However, the report did not mention any specific goals or plans regarding the testing activities, including the detonation of a nuclear device.

The plenary session of the ruling Labor Party’s Central Committee also addressed key matters of state, including efforts to slow a COVID-19 outbreak the North first acknowledged last month and progress on economic goals, which Kim desperately needs to achieve amid heightened virus restrictions want to keep alive.

“[Kim]said the right to self-defense is a matter of defending sovereignty and once again clarified the party’s unchanging principle of struggle, might for might and direct struggle,” KCNA said.

The meeting came amid a provocative series of missile demonstrations that is upsetting an old pattern of risk-taking aimed at forcing the United States to embrace the idea of ​​North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.

North Korea has for years mastered the art of using weapons tests and threats to create diplomatic crises before finally offering negotiations to force concessions.

During the meeting, in a move that could have future foreign policy implications, Kim promoted a veteran diplomat with extensive experience handling US affairs to be his new secretary of state.

Choe Sun Hui, who is among the North’s most powerful women along with the leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong, played an important role in preparing Kim Jong Un for his meetings with former US President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019. Talks between Pyongyang and Washington stalled after the failure of Kim’s second meeting with Trump in February 2019, when the Americans rebuffed North Korea’s calls for a comprehensive lifting of US-led sanctions on the North in exchange for limited disarmament moves .

Choe replaces Ri Son Gwon, a hardliner with a military background who was announced during the meeting as Kim’s new point of contact for rival South Korea.

North Korea has a history of putting pressure on Seoul when it doesn’t get what it wants from Washington. While KCNA’s report on the meeting contained no comments specific to South Korea, it said the participants “clarified principles and strategic and tactical orientations that must be maintained in the fight against the enemy and in the field of foreign policy.”

North Korea has already set an annual ballistic launch record in the first half of 2022, launching 31 missiles in 18 different launch events, including its first ICBM demonstrations in nearly five years.

Kim could up the ante once US and South Korean officials say North Korea has all but completed preparations to detonate a nuclear device at its test site in the northeastern city of Punggye-ri. The site has been dormant since the North’s sixth nuclear test in September 2017, when it said it detonated a thermonuclear bomb developed for its ICBMs.

The North’s unusually rapid pace of testing activities underscores Kim’s twin intentions of advancing its arsenal and pressuring the Biden administration over long-stalled nuclear diplomacy, experts say.

While the United States has said it would push for additional sanctions if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, disagreements among permanent members of the UN Security Council have blurred the prospects for meaningful sanctions. Russia and China this year vetoed US-backed resolutions that would have tightened sanctions and insisted Washington should focus on reviving dialogue.

Kim’s pressure campaign has not been slowed by a COVID-19 outbreak that has spread across the largely unvaccinated autocracy of 26 million people.

During the meeting, North Korea maintained a dubious claim that its outbreak was easing, despite outside concerns about huge death rates amid the country’s broken health system.

North Korea has restricted the movement of people and supplies between regions, but large groups of workers have continued to congregate on farms and industrial sites to prop up an economy decimated by decades of mismanagement, sanctions and pandemic border closures.

Kim said during the meeting the country’s antivirus campaign for the past month’s “maximum emergency” has strengthened the business sector’s ability to cope with the virus.

Kim has turned down US and South Korean offers of vaccines and other aid. GAVI, the nonprofit organization that runs the United Nations-backed COVAX vaccine distribution program, believes North Korea has started giving doses administered by its ally China. But the number of doses and how they were distributed was not known.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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Nate Jones

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