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(5th LD) N.K. leader calls repeatedly for 'self-reliance,' vows never to give in to sanctions

All Headlines 10:56 April 11, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with quotes in KCNA's English report; ADDS Seoul official's assessment)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called repeatedly for self-reliant economic development during a key meeting of the Workers' Party, as he vowed never to give in to sanctions amid stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States, state media said Thursday.

Kim made the remark during a plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling party Wednesday, a day before the North is to convene the first session of its 14th Supreme People's Assembly, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

"He underscored the need to more vigorously advance socialist construction by dint of self-supporting national economy ... so as to deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees," the KCNA said.

"Self-reliance and self-supporting national economy are the bedrock of the existence of our own style socialism, the motive power of its advance and development and the eternal lifeline essential to the destiny of our revolution," he was quoted as saying.

DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party on April 10, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

According to the KCNA report, Kim mentioned self-reliance dozens of times during the meeting.

A unification ministry official in Seoul told reporters that Kim's emphasis on self-reliance reaffirmed his commitment to focusing on economic development following a policy shift adopted in April last year from the so-called byongjin line of simultaneously seeking both nuclear and economic development.

Experts see this as intended to brace the country for a protracted tug-of-war in nuclear talks with the U.S. following the breakdown of the summit in Hanoi by focusing on economic development.

Kim mentioned his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in late February in Hanoi but steered clear of criticism directly pointed at Washington or his country's nuclear program.

The Hanoi summit fell apart as Kim and Trump failed to find common ground over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with Washington's sanctions relief.

Pyongyang wanted major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear facility. But Washington insisted on what officials described as "a big deal" that called for trading sanctions relief for the dismantlement of all of the North's nuclear and other weapons programs.

Kim's push for self-reliance and fight against sanctions comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump are set to meet Thursday (local time) in Washington to coordinate their approach toward North Korea's nuclear issue.

Moon has hoped to play a role in bridging the gap in the demands from Pyongyang and Washington, and help get the stalled nuclear talks started again.

South Korean officials have recently talked increasingly about "a good enough deal" and a need for an "early harvest," expressing hopes that the U.S. will soften its position on a "big deal" and meet the North halfway.

In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he would like to leave "a little room" in the sanctions regime against North Korea in the case of "substantial process" in its denuclearization.

This can been seen as a signal for some flexibility in Washington's future negotiations with Pyongyang on its nuclear weapons program.

Meanwhile, the KCNA reported that Premier Pak Pong-ju was voted in Wednesday's meeting to become a vice chairman of the Workers' Party. Pak, 80, has spearheaded the North's economic policy since April 2013 as premier.

This spawned speculation that the control tower post for economic policy could be replaced given that it is rare in the communist state for a premier to serve concurrently as a vice chairman of the ruling party. Some say that his replacement, if confirmed, could be due in part to his advanced age.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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