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.”