North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country’s focus for 2022 will be on food and the economy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made no mention of the United States in an agenda-setting statement at the close of a critical ruling-party meeting on Saturday, according to state media.
Instead of the policy positions on diplomacy that have been the center of Kim’s New Year comments in recent years, he spoke at a Workers’ Party of Korea plenary about food and development.
The impoverished, nuclear-armed country has been enslaved by a self-imposed coronavirus blockade that has wreaked havoc on its economy and caused food shortages.
In a report on Kim’s speech, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) noted, “Achieving an epoch-making step in resolving difficulties relating to the people’s daily demands was presented as an urgent goal.”
According to the South Korean central bank, the epidemic and resulting border restriction caused the North’s economy to shrink for the first time in over two decades in 2020.
Concerns have increased in the country about a full-fledged food crisis, with a UN human rights specialist warning in October that the most vulnerable were “at risk of famine.”
Kim, who came to power when his father Kim Jong Il died little over a decade ago, said at the party gathering that fighting the pandemic was one of the top priorities for the coming year.
According to KCNA, he stated, “Emergency anti-epidemic measures must be placed as a top national priority and actively carried out… without even a little slack, gap, or loophole.”
While the leader made no direct mention of the US or South Korea, he did say Pyongyang would continue to improve its military capabilities.
KCNA paraphrased Kim as saying, “The increasingly unpredictable military environment on the Korean peninsula, as well as the worldwide situation, demand the building of national defense capabilities.”
The state media broadcast gave no indication of what that may entail.
Pyongyang is subject to a number of international sanctions as a result of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which have advanced swiftly under Kim.
However, despite the worsening economic condition during the pandemic, North Korea has continued to pursue weapons development, according to a UN study released in October.
Since the failure of the engagement between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump in 2019, Pyongyang has kept away from nuclear talks.
It has also rebuffed diplomatic efforts from South Korea.