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

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.


Beijing says holding UK’s Hong Kong consulate employee

Updated 56 min 23 sec ago

Beijing says holding UK’s Hong Kong consulate employee

  • Simon Cheng went missing on Aug. 8 after sending his girlfriend a text message
  • Cheng is accused of violating the Public Security Administration Punishments Law

BEIJING: An employee of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong who went missing earlier this month is being held in China, Beijing confirmed Wednesday.
The incident comes as relations between Britain and China have become strained over what Beijing calls London’s “interference” in pro-democracy protests that have wracked Hong Kong for three months.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing the detained man had been “placed in administrative detention for 15 days as punishment” by Shenzhen police for breaking a public security law.
Geng said the employee was from Hong Kong and therefore the issue was an internal matter.
“Let me clarify, this employee is a Hong Kong citizen, he’s not a UK citizen, which is also saying he’s a Chinese person,” Geng said.
The man, named by his family as Simon Cheng, traveled to Shenzhen, a megacity on the China-Hong Kong border, for a one-day business meeting on August 8.
That night, Cheng returned via high-speed train and sent messages to his girlfriend as he was about to go through customs.
“We lost contact with him since then,” the family said in a Facebook post.
Geng said the employee had violated the Public Security Administration Punishments Law — a law with broad scope aimed at “maintaining public order in society” and “safeguarding public security,” as well as making sure police and security forces act within the law.
The ongoing protests have raised fears of a Chinese crackdown in some form.
The unrest was initially triggered by a controversial law that would allow extradition to the mainland, but has since broadened into a call for wider democratic reforms.
Beijing has repeatedly warned Britain — the former colonial ruler of Hong Kong — against any “interference” in the protests, which erupted 11 weeks ago and have seen millions of people hit the streets calling for democratic reforms.
“Recently the UK has made many erroneous remarks about Hong Kong,” Geng said at the press briefing Wednesday.
“We once again urge the British side to stop gesticulating and fanning flames on the Hong Kong issue.”
With Beijing attempting to shape the narrative of the unrest in Hong Kong, Chinese authorities have increased their inspections at the Shenzhen border, including checking the phones and devices of some passengers for photos of the protests.
The mainland metropolis of Shenzhen sits behind China’s “Great Firewall” --which restricts access to news and information — while Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland.
China promised to respect the freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory after its handover from Britain in 1997, including freedom of speech, unfettered access to the Internet and an independent judiciary.
Beijing also faced criticism in the past for detaining foreign nationals amid ongoing diplomatic spats.
Ottawa has urged Beijing to release two Canadian citizens detained in December amid escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained amid a diplomatic crisis sparked by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer for Chinese tech giant Huawei, in Vancouver on a US extradition bid.
Former diplomat Kovrig and consultant Spavor were picked up in China on suspicion of espionage days after her arrest, in a move widely seen as retaliation.
Friends of the missing employee staged a protest outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon to pressure the UK government to “save Simon.”
“Hong Kong people are still fighting to oppose the extradition bill, yet something like this happened without such a bill,” organizer Max Chung told AFP.
“If the Beijing government doesn’t explain to the public why this happened, then it is playing with fire. This is a warning to Hongkongers and to whoever wants to come to Hong Kong.”
Chung told the rally that “to our best understanding” his detained friend had not been involved with the ongoing protests that have engulfed the financial hub.
“Simon is a very good guy, and smart guy... I don’t think he would do anything stupid,” he added.