North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called the United States the ‘biggest enemy’ of his country, threatening to continue advancing its nuclear capabilities, state media said Saturday.
Mr. Jong-un also said Washington’s policy against Pyongyang would not change regardless of who was in the White House, adding that an end to its hostile stance would likely be the key to future relations between the two countries, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
He made the remarks reporting to the eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party currently under way in Pyongyang, the North’s first reference to transition of power in Washington since Joe Biden’s election as U.S. president in November.
They also came days before Mr Biden’s inauguration slated for January 20, which experts see as aimed at pressuring the incoming administration in Washington.
“The report said that the key to the establishment of new North Korea-U.S. relations is the withdrawal of the U.S.’ hostile North Korea policy,” KCNA said, declaring an “eye for an eye” principle against Washington.
“Our external political activities going forward should be focused on suppressing and subduing the U.S., the basic obstacle, biggest enemy against our revolutionary development,” KCNA said.
Mr. Jong-un has held three meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump, but denuclearization talks have made little progress since their no-deal summit in Hanoi in 2019.
Mr. Biden earlier said that he would not meet the North Korean leader without preconditions, vowing to pursue “principled” diplomacy on Pyongyang. He has called Mr Jong-un a “thug” and “dictator,” denouncing Mr Trump for giving legitimacy to Kim through summits.
Referring to the summits with Mr Trump, Mr. Jong-un said the U.S. hostile policy has worsened despite the North’s “efforts” and “maximum patience” to reduce tensions in the region.
Mr. Jong-un rolled out a series of goals to boost the North’s military power, calling for improvement in missiles’ strike capabilities targeting objects in the range of 15,000 kilometers, apparently intended to be capable of reaching the mainland U.S., and minimisation of nuclear weapons.
The North also boasted of a new nuclear-powered submarine, saying that it has completed the research design and it is in the stage of final examination.
Other military projects ordered by Mr Jong-un include the development of tactical nuclear weapons, ground or submarine-launched solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the introduction of hypersonic aircraft and a military surveillance satellite.
“The reality shows that we need to strengthen the national defense capabilities without a moment of hesitation to deter the United States’ nuclear threats and to bring peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” KCNA said.
“The geopolitical features of our state called for pushing ahead with the already-started building of the nuclear force without interruption for the welfare of the people, destiny of the revolution, existence and independent development of the state,” it said.
Still, the North Korean leader reaffirmed that Pyongyang would not use its nuclear arsenal unless “hostile forces” attempt to attack with nuclear weapons.
Washington has yet to respond to the North’s announcement.
With regard to relations with South Korea, Mr Jong-un appeared to have left room for improvement in the currently chilled ties, saying things could return to three years ago when a peace mood was created, “at any time” but emphasized that it all depends on South Korea’s attitude.
“The report made a stern warning that we will have no choice but to treat the South differently if it continues to push us to the corner citing ‘provocations,’” it said.
Inter-Korean relations have remained stalled since the Hanoi summit as sanctions stand in the way of cross-border exchanges and cooperation.
The ties chilled further last year, as North Korea blew up an inter-Korean joint liaison office in anger over anti-Pyongyang leafleting in June and killed a South Korean fisheries official drifting near its western sea border in September.
North Korea has not responded to Seoul’s offers for talks and cooperative projects, while focusing on warding off an outbreak of the coronavirus on its soil by sealing its border and toughening quarantine measures.
Mr Jong-un said such projects on “antivirus, humanitarian cooperation (and) individual trips” are all “nonessential” issues, calling for a halt to the combined exercises between South Korea and the United States.
During the congress, Mr Jong-un also unveiled a new economic development plan for the next five years, which centers around self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
North Korea will focus its investment in the metal and chemical industries, among others, while strengthening the technological base for the agricultural sector, it said.
“The core theme of the new five-year national economic development plan is still self-reliance and self-sufficiency,” the report said.
This week’s congress, the first in nearly five years, came as North Korea has been faced with a triple whammy of the fallout of back-to-back typhoons in the summer, a protracted border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic and global sanctions on its economy.
Opening the event on Tuesday, Mr Jong-un admitted the failure to meet the country’s previous five-year development goals, describing the past few years as a period of “unprecedented, worst-ever trials.”
KCNA said that a fifth-day session was to be held Saturday.
It is still unclear for how many days the congress will continue as the North has not made public the exact schedule.
The previous congress in 2016 was held for four days.