Kim Jong Un pledges to strengthen nuclear arsenal

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 14, 2021

In his lengthy policy review to the congress over the weekend, Kim called North Korea "a responsible nuclear weapons state" that would not use its arsenal unless it was first threatened with a nuclear weapon. The timing of this message is key as it comes as US President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.

In remarks at the congress, Kim also reaffirmed North Korea's commitment to develop more sophisticated nuclear weapons, including missiles that could strike targets 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) away - putting Washington in range. Kim acknowledged that his economic plans had failed, but he said he did not see his nuclear weapons program as an obstacle toward rebuilding the economy.

North Korea is isolated from the global community (except for China and to a lesser extent Russia), and has been under worldwide sanctions for years over its nuclear and missile programmes.

The performance took place on Wednesday, a day after the North wrapped up the eighth congress of its ruling Workers' Party, which was held for more than a week since its opening on January 5, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). He cited a long list of strategic weapons, including hypersonic nuclear weapons, military spy satellites and solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Under Kim, North Korea has conducted four of its six underground nuclear tests and flight-tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"It is a message to the United States that it will continue to build up its strategic arsenal unless the USA changes its course on North Korea policy", he told AFP.

The North was expected to hold a military parade after the congress but its state media has not yet mentioned whether it has held one. The congress also ended on an aggressive note Tuesday with a statement leveled against South Korea from Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, slamming Seoul's military for making predictions about a military parade underway in Pyongyang. "This gives him the same status (as his father) ... the dictatorship has been consolidated in form and title", Lee Seong-hyon from the South Korean think tank The Sejong Institute said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech to conclude a rare ruling party congress in Pyongyang on Tuesday. | KCNA  KNS  VIA AFP-JIJI
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech to conclude a rare ruling party congress in Pyongyang on Tuesday. | KCNA KNS VIA AFP-JIJI

Kim Yo Jong confirmed the holding of "military parade in the capital city", but dismissed any holding of "military exercises targeting anybody nor launch of anything".

The North's economy is struggling in the face of its self-imposed coronavirus blockade, chronic mismanagement and sanctions, and Kim repeatedly admitted to the party delegates that mistakes had been made.

"The (South Koreans) are a truly weird group hard to understand".

In a statement carried by KCNA, she derided the "idiot" authorities in Seoul for a "senseless" declaration this week by the South's joint chiefs of staff about a possible military parade in Pyongyang that she said demonstrated a "hostile attitude". It was not clear what, if any, weaponry was displayed during the event.

It appears that Kim Yo Jong might have suffered a demotion as her name does not appear on the lists of those appointed to the party central committee, after previously being an alternate member.

The KCNA said the North will convene its rubber-stamp parliament on Sunday to adopt the decisions made by the congress into law.

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