North Korea’s Kim vows stronger ‘nuclear deterrence’ after party convention ends

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reiterated his vow to strengthen his country’s “nuclear war deterrence” and build more powerful military capabilities, state media said on Wednesday, as the country closed a rare ruling party congress intended to prepare the ground for the regime. short-term policies.

The congress, the second in four decades, saw Kim lay out his plans for the country’s economic, military and diplomatic initiatives over the next five years. It also ended just over a week before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

Denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled since negotiations collapsed over disagreements over what North Korea was willing to give up in exchange for relief from crushing UN sanctions on its countries. nuclear weapons and its missile programs.

Kim has largely stuck to a familiar playbook at the party convention, promising to develop more advanced nuclear weapons and missiles – including those capable of evading missile defense systems in Japan – and criticizing them. United States as their “main enemy”.

His last congressional closing address on Tuesday again underscored the importance of nuclear weapons and a strong military in the face of what he calls “hostile policies” by the United States.

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“While further strengthening our deterrence from nuclear war, we must do everything to build the strongest military capabilities,” Kim said, quoting the official Korean Central News Agency. “In accelerating efforts to make our military more elitist and stronger, we must fully prepare them to play their role against any form of threat or unexpected situation.”

It came just days after Kim unveiled a wishlist of new advanced weaponry, including smaller, low-power nuclear weapons and longer-range solid-fuel missiles, some of which were already in development or intended. to be tested.

While some experts believe the high price of producing these advanced weapons would limit Kim’s success in achieving these goals, others have warned not to bet against the regime.

“To underestimate Pyongyang’s willingness and ability to advance its nuclear and missile programs is a mistake, as 2016 and 2017 have shown,” wrote on Twitter Markus Garlauskas, who was the leading expert on the American community intelligence on North Korea.

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

These two years saw the North conduct an unprecedented number of missile and atomic tests that culminated in Kim’s November 2017 statement that his country had perfected its “state nuclear force” after the launch. successful long-range missile that analysts believe is capable. to strike much, if not all, of the continental United States.

The North has not tested a nuclear bomb or launched an intercontinental ballistic missile since then.

Yet the country has continued to build and refine its arsenal, even after Kim’s three meetings with US President Donald Trump.

In an example of the North’s growing nuclear capabilities, Kim oversaw a massive military parade in October that unveiled a new monster missile that some analysts say could carry enough nuclear warheads to overwhelm existing US and Japanese missile defenses.

Separately on Wednesday, Kim’s powerful sister tore up the South Korean military for following a parade in Pyongyang during the congress, KCNA reported. Kim Yo Jong, a trusted confidante of his brother, called the move Seoul’s “hostile approach” to Pyongyang.

“We are only organizing a military parade in the capital, no military exercises targeting anyone or launching anything. Why are they struggling to crane their necks to follow what’s going on in the north, ”Kim Yo Jong said.

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“Southerners are a really strange bunch that is hard to understand.”

The South Korean military said in a statement on Monday that it had observed signs that the North held a nighttime military parade on Sunday to mark the congress. It was not clear what weaponry, if any, was on display during the occurrence.

Kim Jong Un used the congress to further consolidate his hold on power, notably thanks to an election which earned him the title previously reserved for his late father as secretary general of the ruling party.

Although the party convention is now over, more details of Kim’s plans could emerge at a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly (ASP), his KCNA-approved parliament, which is scheduled for Sunday by KCNA.

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