North Korea has a “reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence” and was now focusing on developing its sanctions-hit economy, Kim Song, North Korea’s United Nations ambassador said on Tuesday.
In an address to the UN General Assembly, Kim said North Korea was still threatened by military hardware like stealth fighters being used on the Korean Peninsula and “nuclear strike means of all kinds are directly aimed at the DPRK”.
“Genuine peace can only be safeguarded when one possesses the absolute strength to prevent war itself,” Kim said. “As we have obtained the reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence by tightening our belts, peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the region are now firmly defended.”
Already weighed down by tough international sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, Pyongyang is also facing significant economic damage from strict border closures and other measures aimed at preventing a coronavirus outbreak. It is also struggling to cope with damage from recent storms and flooding.
Kim said the pandemic situation in the “under safe and stable control” as a result of measures taken by the government to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases, though some have cast doubt on that claim.
“Based on its reliable guarantee for safeguarding the security of the state and people, the DPRK is now directing all its efforts to economic construction,” said Kim, using his country’s formal name – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It is a matter of fact that we badly need an external environment favourable for economic construction,” he said. “But, we cannot sell off our dignity just in a hope for brilliant transformation – the dignity which we have defended as valuable as our own life. This is our steadfast position.”
A UN report on Monday said North Korea was flouting nuclear sanctions by exceeding a 500,000 barrel restriction on petroleum imports and continuing to send workers overseas.
Independent sanctions monitors reported to the Security Council in August that North Korea was continuing with its nuclear weapons programme and several countries believed it had “probably developed miniaturised nuclear devices to fit into the warheads of its ballistic missiles”.
Jenny Town, a Stimson Center fellow and deputy director of 38 North, said that the envoy’s speech contained “no overt threats or hints of shows of force or demonstrations of power in the near future. It was very focused on rebuilding and recovering the internal situation.”
She added that while North Korea wants sanctions relief, “they aren’t going to simply give up their weapons on promises of a brighter future” and there would need to be tangible moves to prove that relations with the United States had changed before Pyongyang could justify taking measures that would jeopardise its security.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump have met three times since 2018, but have made no progress on US calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.
North Korea’s governing party is planning a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan, state media reported last month, after a party meeting noted serious delays in improving the national economy and living standards.