North Korean leader reaffirms arms buildup in party meeting

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doubled down on his arms buildup in the face of what he described as an aggravating security environment while outside governments monitor signs of a possibly imminent North Korean nuclear test explosion.

Kim’s comments during a major three-day political conference that wrapped up Friday didn’t include any direct criticism of the United States or rival South Korea amid a prolonged deadlock in nuclear diplomacy.

Kim defended his accelerating weapons development as a rightful exercise of sovereign rights to self-defense and set forth further “militant tasks” to be pursued by his armed forces and military scientists, according to state-run Korean Central News Agency.

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The report on Saturday didn’t mention any specific goals or plans regarding testing activity, including the detonation of a nuclear device.

The plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee also reviewed key state affairs, including efforts to slow a COVID-19 outbreak the North first acknowledged last month and progress in economic goals Kim is desperate to keep alive amid strengthened virus restrictions.

“(Kim) said the right to self-defense is an issue of defending sovereignty, clarifying once again the party’s invariable fighting principle of power for power and head-on contest,” KCNA said.

The meeting came amid a provocative streak in missile demonstrations aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiating economic and security concessions from a position of strength.

North Korea for years has mastered the art of manufacturing diplomatic crises with weapons tests and threats before eventually offering negotiations aimed at extracting concessions.

In a move that may have future foreign policy implications, Kim during the meeting promoted a veteran diplomat with deep experience in handling US affairs as his new foreign minister.

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