Kim Jong Un praises North Korea nuclear program, promotes sister to center of power

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Yo Jong attend an opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Pyongyang on April 13 this year. (Reuters)
Updated 08 October 2017
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Kim Jong Un praises North Korea nuclear program, promotes sister to center of power

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his nuclear weapons are a “powerful deterrent” which guarantee North Korea’s sovereignty, state media reported on Sunday, hours after US President Donald Trump said “only one thing will work” in dealing with the isolated country.
Trump did not make clear to what he was referring, but his comments seemed to be a further suggestion that military action was on his mind.
In a speech to a meeting of the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party on Saturday, a day before Trump’s most recent comments, state media said Kim had addressed the “complicated international situation.”
North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a “powerful deterrent firmly safeguarding the peace and security in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia,” Kim said, referring to the “protracted nuclear threats of the US imperialists.”
In recent weeks, North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test, and may be fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
North Korea is preparing to test-launch such a missile, a Russian lawmaker who had just returned from a visit to Pyongyang was quoted as saying on Friday.
Donald Trump has previously said the US would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies.
The situation proved that North Korea’s policy of “byungjin,” meaning the parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy was “absolutely right,” Kim Jong Un said in the speech.
“The national economy has grown on their strength this year, despite the escalating sanctions,” said Kim, referring to UN Security Council resolutions put in place to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
The meeting also handled some personnel changes inside North Korea’s secretive and opaque ruling center of power, state media said.
Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was made an alternate member of the politburo — the top decision-making body over which Kim Jong Un presides.
Alongside Kim Jong Un himself, the promotion makes the her the only other millennial member of the influential body.
Her promotion indicates the 28-year-old has become a replacement for Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hee, who had been a key decision maker when former leader Kim Jong Il was alive.
“It shows that her portfolio and writ is far more substantive than previously believed and it is a further consolidation of the Kim family’s power,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North website.
In January, the US Treasury blacklisted Kim Yo Jong along with other North Korean officials over “severe human rights abuses.”
Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol, two of the three men behind Kim’s banned rocket program, were also promoted.
North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, who named Donald Trump “President Evil” in a bombastic speech to the UN General Assembly last month, was promoted to full vote-carrying member of the politburo.
“Ri can now be safely identified as one of North Korea’s top policy makers,” said Madden.
“Even if he has informal or off the record meetings, Ri’s interlocutors can be assured that whatever proposals they proffer will be taken directly to the top,” he said.


Maduro isolated as Latin American nations back Venezuela opposition leader

Updated 15 min 28 sec ago
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Maduro isolated as Latin American nations back Venezuela opposition leader

  • Opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself as interim president on Wednesday
  • Longstanding leftist allies Bolivia and Cuba were the only countries in the region to explicitly voice support for Maduro
LIMA, Peru: Most Latin American nations recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on Wednesday, leaving Nicolas Maduro ever more isolated as he faces unrest at home and threats from the United States.
c as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru backed Guaido.
The United States and Canada also recognized Guaido — the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly — as Venezuela’s legitimate ruler.
However, Mexico — once a vocal member of the Lima Group regional bloc created to pressure Maduro to enact democratic reforms — struck a discordant note under new leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying it would not take sides and branding support for Guaido a violation of sovereignty.
The telegenic Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s temporary president on Wednesday at a rally that drew hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans. He accused Maduro of usurping power and promised to create a transitional government.
The diplomatic support for Guaido was a striking move in a region where countries tend to refrain from criticizing each other despite their political differences, underscoring how rattled Venezuela’s neighbors have become by its deteriorating situation.
Criticism of Maduro has grown in recent years as his government has sidelined the National Assembly, held widely-questioned elections and overseen an economic crisis that has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee, mostly to other South American countries.
At the same time, right-leaning governments in South America have risen to power in places where Maduro once had allies.
“Argentina will support all efforts toward rebuilding democracy in Venezuela and reestablishing conditions of life worthy of all its citizens,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Macri took office in 2015, replacing Maduro’s former ally Cristina Fernandez.
Maduro called on the military to stay united and severed diplomatic relations with Washington, which he accused of trying to orchestrate a coup with help from its allies in the region.
US President Donald Trump reiterated that “all options are on the table” and his administration signaled potential new sanctions against Venezuela’s vital oil sector.
Mexico said it would still recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president and called for dialogue.
“Mexico does not form part (of) this attempt to take sides and promote a type of internal intervention,” presidential spokesman Jesus Ramirez said in a broadcast interview.
Under Lopez Obrador, Mexico has returned to its traditional foreign policy of non-intervention.
“We maintain our position of neutrality and non-intervention toward the conflict in Venezuela,” Ramirez said.