North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un vowed to boost his military in the coming year – and made no mention of resuming stalled denuclearization talks with the US and South Korea – in a speech to his nation’s ruling party Saturday.
“The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean Peninsula and international politics have instigated calls to vigorously push forward with our national defense build-up plans without any delay,” Kim said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
But the speech, which came at the close of a five-day plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, was light on details of the promised military build-up.
Instead, Kim’s address largely looked inward, with a heavy focus on domestic issues like rural development and school uniforms, as the Hermit Kingdom remains tightly locked down amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The main task facing our Party and people next year is to … bring about a remarkable change in the state development and the people’s standard of living,” Kim promised.
The regime has refused to accept international offers of COVID-19 vaccines and has sharply limited trade with China in an effort to wall itself off from the virus.
The dictator pledged to “boost agricultural production to completely resolve the country’s food problems” — one of several references he made to “severe hardships” within North Korea’s economy.
The party conference began at the close of an 11-day mourning period marking the anniversary of the 2011 death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, during which laughter was forbidden.
Earlier this week, the party’s official mouthpiece, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, urged the nation’s soldiers to become an “impregnable fortress and bulletproof walls in devotedly defending [Kim] with their lives.”