Kim discusses bolstering 'nuclear war deterrence'

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Kim discusses bolstering 'nuclear war deterrence'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signs an order at a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party’s Central Military Commission, with recently promoted military officials looking on, in a picture carried in Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun Sunday. [YONHAP]

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signs an order at a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party’s Central Military Commission, with recently promoted military officials looking on, in a picture carried in Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun Sunday. [YONHAP]

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un discussed policies to bolster Pyonyang’s “nuclear war deterrence” while presiding over a key meeting of the ruling Workers' Party’s Central Military Commission, reported the North's state media Sunday.  
 
This marked Kim’s first public appearance in some 22 days.  
 
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, “Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation in line with the general requirements for the building and development of the armed forces of the country.” 
 
It also reported that “crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces of the Korean People's Army” were taken at this meeting.
 
The report didn’t further elaborate on the exact policies to increase such nuclear deterrence and artillery strike capabilities.  
 
But it said that the meeting discussed “core issues for further increasing the capabilities for militarily deterring the threatening foreign forces by rapidly increasing the self-reliant defense capabilities and organizing new units.”
 
Kim last presided over an “enlarged meeting” of the Central Military Commission, North Korea’s top military-governing body, some five months ago on Dec. 22.  
 
Kim was last reported in North Korean state media on May 2 visiting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a fertilizer factory in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province. Prior to that, he had been out of the public eye for some three weeks, which spurred various speculations on the state of his health. His disappearance in recent weeks again prompted rumors on his well-being, but Kim appeared in good health and without problems moving around in a series of photographs released Sunday by North Korean state media.  
 
This meeting appeared to set internal military policy amid a continued deadlock in denuclearization talks with the United States and the coronavirus pandemic which has prompted North Korea to implement strict quarantine measures for over four months.  
 
After a four-day meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee at the end of last year, Kim said the North no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. He also warned of a new strategic weapon in development “in the near future.” However, Pyongyang has made little public reference to such nuclear armament or deterrence this year.  
 
Denuclearization negotiations with Washington, which have resulted in a halt in nuclear and long-range missile tests since late 2017, have been at an impasse since the second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February 2019. The two leaders had a brief impromptu reunion last June at the demilitarized zone at the inter-Korean border and working-level talks were held in Stockholm last October, but little progress has been made since.    
 
Thus, analysts are paying attention to Kim’s messaging as he raises the military card and appears to be focused on expanding his country’s nuclear and missile capabilities through this meeting.  
 
The KCNA said that the meeting discussed military steps and political measures “to further bolster” the armed forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, “to be able to firmly defend the political stability and sovereignty of the country” against “hostile forces” and to develop “national defense capabilities and war deterrents.”
 
Kim signed seven orders related to the military measures discussed during the meeting including reorganizing the military commanding system and promoting the military ranks of commanding officers. He also stressed “realizing the party's monolithic leadership over the People's Army by consolidating the party organizations and political institutions at all levels.”  
 
Ri Pyong-chol, a former air force general who spearheaded the North's nuclear arms development, was elected as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the KCNA reported.  
 
Kim also promoted on Saturday some 100 military officials. Pak Jong-chon, a career military commander specializing in artillery and missile forces, was promoted to a vice marshal in a rare move.  
 
Previously, Pak was promoted to a four-star general and chief of the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army last September and a full member of the Workers’ Party’s Politburo in April. Pak has been spotted closely accompanying Kim at missile tests and on a horse ride up Mount Paektu last December, and was photographed by his side as the young leader signed the order Saturday, also covered on the front page of the state-run Rodong Sinmun Sunday.  
 
North Korean media also announced Saturday that April 25, the founding day of the North Korean People's Revolutionary Army by the country’s late leader Kim Il Sung, was designated as a national holiday on Wednesday.  
 
BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 

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