North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for more advanced nuclear weapons, saying the United States is “our biggest enemy,” state media said on Saturday, presenting a sharp challenge to President-elect Joe Biden just days before taking office.
Washington’s hostile policy would not change regardless of who occupies the White House, but losing that policy would be the key to North Korean – US relations, Kim said, according to the state news agency KCNA.
“Our foreign policy activities should be focused and redirected to subjugate the United States, our greatest enemy and our greatest obstacle to our innovative development,” Kim said during nine hours of comments over several days at a rare party congress in Pyongyang.
“Regardless of who has power in the United States, the true nature of the United States and its fundamental policy toward North Korea will never change,” Kim said, promising to expand ties with “anti-imperialist, independent forces.”
North Korea would not “abuse” its nuclear weapons, Kim said, but the country is expanding its nuclear arsenal, including “preventive” and “retaliatory” strike functions and warheads of various sizes.
Kim called for the development of equipment including hypersonic weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), spy satellites and drones.
North Korea is preparing for testing and production of various new weapons, including a “multi-warhead rocket” and “supersonic sliding air warheads for new-type ballistic missiles,” while research on a nuclear submarine is nearing completion, he said.
“Kim showed quite a bit of what he’s thinking – underwater missiles, better ICBMs and other advanced weapons,” said Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul. “He says that’s basically what Washington will see in the future, which could increase tensions or open doors for talks.”
Kim’s remarks were one of the most ambitious outlines of North Korea’s national defense and nuclear issues at the time, said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“It may require a return to nuclear testing, which is now on the table given that Kim waived his moratorium in April 2018,” he said.
US calls stopped
There was no immediate comment from the US State Department. A spokesman for the Biden campaign declined to comment.
Biden, who was vice president under President Barack Obama, called Kim a “nap” during the election campaign. In 2019, North Korea called Biden a “rabid dog” that needed to be “killed with a stick.”
Kim had three unprecedented meetings with President Donald Trump and the two corresponded in a series of letters, but these efforts failed to lead to a nuclear deal or official change in the countries’ relations.
“North Korea explains that the window for cooperation is much, much smaller for the Biden administration,” Yoo said.
Biden said in October that he would only meet Kim on the condition that North Korea agree to reduce its nuclear power capacity.
Last month, Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for East Asia under Obama and a challenger to a top Asian political position under Biden, said the next US government would need to make an early decision on what strategy it will take with North Korea and not repeat the delay. of the Obama era.
In addition to US and defense policy, Kim spoke further about proposals for a five-year economic plan to be announced at Congress, which he said would continue to focus on building an independent economy.
“The basic seeds and themes of the new five-year economic development plan are still self-confidence and self-sufficiency,” he said.
Among the plans is to build energy-saving steel mills, increase chemical products significantly, increase electricity production and secure more coal mines, says Kim.
Congress took steps toward “strengthening unified guidance and strategic direction of the state over economic work.”
North Korea is facing growing crises caused by international sanctions over its nuclear program, as well as self-imposed locks to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.
“In practical terms, there is a link between North Korea’s serious internal economic situation and this ambitious nuclear and military modernization agenda,” Panda said.
Kim criticized South Korea for offering cooperation in “non-basic” areas such as coronavirus aid and tourism, and said the South should stop buying weapons from and conduct military exercises with the United States.