North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would not use its nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty was invaded and announced a five-year economic plan at a milestone congress of North Korea’s ruling party, which entered its third day yesterday.
Kim said he was ready to improve ties with “hostile” nations, and called for more talks with rival South Korea to reduce misunderstanding and distrust. He also urged the United States to stay away from inter-Korean issues.
“Our republic is a responsible nuclear state that, as we made clear before, will not use nuclear weapons first unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to invade on our sovereignty,” Kim said in a roughly three-hour speech shown on the North’s Korean Central Television.
Kim is believed to have delivered the speech at Pyongyang’s 25 April House of Culture the day before, but its content wasn’t made public until early yesterday.
At the congress, Kim also announced a five-year plan starting this year to develop the North’s moribund economy, and identified improving the country’s power supply and increasing its agricultural and light-manufacturing production as critical parts of the programme. He also said the country must secure more electricity through nuclear power.
It was first time North Korea had announced a five-year plan since the 1980s and detailing it in such a public way demonstrated that Kim was taking ownership of the country’s economic problems, something his father, Kim Jong Il, avoided as leader.
Kim stressed that the country needed to increase its international trade and engagement in the global economy, but did not announce any significant reforms or plans to adopt capitalist-style marketisation.
Market-style business has become more common in North Korea, in large part because of its economic crisis and famine in the 1990s, which made it impossible for the government to provide its citizens with the necessities they had come to rely on and forced many to learn how to fend for themselves.
But while the realities on the ground have shifted, officials have been reluctant to formally embrace significant reforms as state policy.
Kim said that North Korea would “sincerely fulfill its duties for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and work to realise the denuclearisation of the world.”
The North was ready to improve and normalise ties with countries hostile to it if they respected its sovereignty and approached it in a friendly manner, he said.