SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered his country's military, munitions industry and nuclear weapons sector to accelerate war preparations to counter what he described as unprecedented confrontational moves by the United States, state media reported Thursday.
Speaking about political directions for the new year at a key meeting of the country's ruling party on Wednesday, Kim also said that Pyongyang would expand its strategic cooperation with “independent, anti-imperialist” countries, KCNA reported.
North Korea is working to expand its relations with Russia, among others, as Washington accuses Pyongyang of supplying Moscow with military equipment for use in its war with Ukraine, while Russia provides technical support to help the North develop its military capabilities.
“He (Kim) set military tasks for the People's Army, ammunition industry, nuclear weapons and civil defense sectors to speed up war preparations,” the agency said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Thursday visited a military unit on the front lines in eastern Yeoncheon Province to inspect its defense situation and called for immediate retaliation if there is any provocation from North Korea.
“I urge you to immediately and resolutely crush the enemy's will to carry out a provocation immediately,” Yoon told the soldiers.
During the party's plenary session, the North Korean leader also set economic goals for the new year, describing it as a “critical year” for achieving the country's five-year development plan, KCNA said.
He added, “He explained the important tasks for the new year in order to move them dynamically forward in the main industrial sectors,” and called for “stabilization of agricultural production at a high level.”
North Korea has suffered serious food shortages in recent decades, including famine in the 1990s, which were often the result of natural disasters. International experts have warned that border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened food security.
North Korea's crop production is estimated to have increased year-on-year in 2023 due to favorable weather conditions. But a Seoul official said the amount was still far short of what was needed to address the country's chronic food shortages.
The ninth plenary meeting of the Eighth Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea kicked off on Tuesday, concluding a year during which the reclusive North enshrined nuclear policy in its constitution, launched a spy satellite and launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
The days-long meeting of party and government officials has been used in recent years to make major policy announcements. Earlier, state media published Kim's New Year's Day speech.
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