Health

North Korea’s Kim talks food not nukes for 2022

North Korea’s main goals for 2022 will be jump
starting economic development and improving people’s lives as it faces a
“great life-and-death struggle,” Kim said in a speech on Friday at
the end of the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’
Party of Korea (WPK), which began on Monday.

The meetings coincided with the 10-year anniversary
of Kim effectively assuming leadership of the country after the death of his
father in 2011. read more

Kim has used previous speeches around the New
Year to make major policy announcements, including launching significant
diplomatic engagements with South Korea and the United States.

But summaries of his speech published in North
Korean state media made no specific mention of the United States, with only a
passing reference to unspecified discussions of inter-Korean relations and
“external affairs.”

The domestic focus of the speech underscored
the economic problems Kim faces at home, where self-imposed anti-pandemic
border lockdowns have left North Korea more isolated than ever before, with
international aid organisations warning of possible food shortages and a
humanitarian crisis.

“The main task facing our Party and
people next year is to provide a sure guarantee for the implementation of the
five-year plan and bring about a remarkable change in the state development and
the people’s standard of living,” Kim was quoted as saying.

Kim spent the majority of his speech detailing
domestic issues from an ambitious plan for rural development to people’s diets,
school uniforms and the need to crack down on “non-socialist
practices.”

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The big focus on rural development is likely a
populist strategy, said Chad O’Carroll, founder of NK News, a Seoul-based
website that tracks North Korea.

“Overall, Kim might be aware that
revealing sophisticated military development plans while people are suffering
food shortages and harsh conditions outside of Pyongyang might not be such a
good idea this year,” he wrote on Twitter.

Saturday’s state media report cited the
development of “one ultra-modern weapon system after another” as a
major achievement of the past year and said Kim called for bolstering the
national defence to face an unstable international situation.

A tractor factory he discussed in the speech
was likely used to build launch vehicles for missiles, foreign analysts have
said, and North Korea is believed to have expanded its arsenal despite the
lockdowns.

The reports of Kim’s speech did not mention
the United States’ call for denuclearisation talks, or South Korea’s push for a
declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War as a way to restart those
negotiations.

North Korea has previously said it is open to
diplomacy, but that the American overtures appear hollow while “hostile
acts” such as military drills and sanctions continue.

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