Kim Jong Un vows to deliver ‘serious blow’ over sanctions

We must advance the socialist construction to a high level of self-reliance that fits our circumstances and state, said Kim Jong Un. (AP)
Updated 11 April 2019

Kim Jong Un vows to deliver ‘serious blow’ over sanctions

  • Kim’s second summit meeting with Trump in Hanoi in February collapsed

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to deliver a “serious blow” to nations imposing sanctions against his regime, according to the country’s state media.

His warning came as South Korean President Moon Jae-in prepared to hold summit talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington to find a way of injecting new life into stalled negotiations over the North’s denuclearization.

Kim’s second summit meeting with Trump in Hanoi in February collapsed after the two leaders failed to agree on how to match sanctions relief with progress on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim said: “We must advance the socialist construction to a high level of self-reliance that fits our circumstances and state, based on our own power, technology and resources.

“We must deal a serious blow to the hostile forces who are misjudging they can bring us into submission.”

Kim made his comments during an address to a plenary session of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party in the capital Pyongyang.

It was the first open remark by the North Korean dictator about the ongoing US-led economic sanctions following the breakdown of the Hanoi summit talks.

Kim, however, did not explicitly aim his criticism at the US, an apparent move to leave room for diplomacy with his American counterpart, who has boasted of his friendship with the North Korean leader.

Instead, Kim mentioned the word “self-reliance” dozens of times during the high-profile committee meeting, signaling his policy to weather sanctions that are reportedly biting hard among the population in the cash-strapped state.

In the past week Kim visited economic-related projects in his country, including a beach resort and department store, a move which analysts described as an attempt to demonstrate the resilience of North Korea’s economy against sanctions.

“Kim’s message is clear: Relieve sanctions first and then we’re determined to denuclearize,” Moon Keun-shik, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, a Seoul-based private think tank, told Arab News. 

“It seems his comments were deliberately made to put pressure on both Washington and Seoul to help lift sanctions ahead of the Moon-Trump summit.”

Pyongyang has wanted large parts of sanctions to be lifted in exchange for dismantling its major nuclear complex in Yongbyon and agreeing to a moratorium on its intercontinental ballistic missile programs.

But the Trump administration wants a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, including the abolishment of secret enriched uranium programs, before lifting sanctions.

As a “mediator” between Washington and Pyongyang, Moon is likely to use the summit to urge Trump to soften his stance toward North Korea.

“The collapse of the Hanoi summit means the collapse of inter-Korean agreements made by both Korean leaders last year,” said Prof. Kim Dong-yeop of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, in Seoul. “Moon has little option but to seek a breakthrough in the nuclear impasse. He will and has to persuade Trump to lift sanctions corresponding to North Korea’s denuclearizing steps.”

Speaking at the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would like to leave room for a softening of some sanctions in case of progress on denuclearization.

“I want to leave a little space there. From time to time, there are particular provisions that if we were making substantial progress that one might think that was the right thing to do to achieve,” Pompeo said, referring to the potential relief of sanctions on visa waivers presumably for North Korean workers overseas.

On Wednesday, the US Center for Strategic and International Studies released recent satellite imagery of a North Korean military parade training facility on the east side of Pyongyang.

The pictures, captured on April 7, suggested North Korea may be preparing for a parade ahead of the official birthday of the nation’s founding leader Kim Il-sung, or April 25, the Korean People’s Army Foundation Day, the center said in a report. The activity included the presence of 217 military vehicles.

“A military parade displaying new weapons systems, including long-range ballistic missiles, may indicate the regime’s retrenchment toward a hard-line position and reluctance to denuclearize,” the report added.

However, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said: “We haven’t found any sign of the North’s preparation for a military parade. We’re closely monitoring North Korean activities in coordination with the US military, but it’s not proper to reveal the acquired information.”

India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi (C) gestures after laying a wreath to pay tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs memorial in Amritsar on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 35 min ago

India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

  • Rahul Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties
  • This election is seen as a referendum on his five-year rule — which has seen impressive economic growth but not the jobs that the BJP promised

NEW DELHI: Indians are voting Tuesday in the third phase of the general elections with campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party and the opposition marred by bitter accusations and acrimony.
People lined up outside voting station at several places even before the polling started at 7 a.m.
The voting for 117 parliamentary seats in 13 states and two Union Territories on Tuesday means polls are half done for 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting over seven phases ends May 19, with counting scheduled for May 23.
The election is seen as a referendum on Modi’s five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch trying to win the majority Hindu votes by projecting a tough stance against Islamic neighbor Pakistan.
The opposition is challenging him for a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices.
Modi is scheduled to vote on Tuesday in his western home state of Gujarat, though he is contesting for a parliamentary seat from Varanasi, a city in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The voting also is taking place in Wayanad constituency in southern Kerala state, one of the two seats from where opposition Congress party president, Rahul Gandhi, is contesting. His home bastion, Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh state will have polling on May 6. He will give up one seat if he wins from both places.
The voting is staggered to facilitate movement of security forces to oversee an orderly election and avoid vote fraud.
India’s autonomous Election Commission intervened last week to block hate speeches by imposing a temporary ban on campaigning by some top politicians across political parties.
Uttar Pradesh state chief minister Yogi Adityanath of Modi’s BJP was barred from campaigning, in the form of public meetings, road shows or media interviews, for three days for making anti-Muslim speeches. He said a Hindu god will ensure the BJP victory in elections, while the opposition was betting on Muslim votes.
Mayawati, a leader of Bahujan Samaj Party, was punished for 48 hours for appealing to Muslims to vote only for her party. India’s top court ordered strict action against politicians for religion and caste-based remarks.
Hindus comprise 80% and Muslims 16% of India’s 1.3 billion people. The opposition accuses the BJP of trying to polarize the Hindu votes in its favor.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP leader, filed a contempt of court petition against Rahul Gandhi in the Supreme Court for misrepresenting a court order while accusing Modi of corruption in a deal to buy 36 French Rafale fighter aircraft. Modi denies the charge.
Modi has used Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record, playing up the threat of rival Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers, in a bid to appear a strong, uncompromising leader on national security. The bombing brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan close to the brink of war.
Opposition parties have consistently said that Modi and his party leaders are digressing from the main issues such as youth employment and farmers’ suicides.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.