North Korea has a “reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defense,” its ambassador to the United Nations said on Tuesday, admitting that international sanctions had hampered the secret communist state.
“Real peace can only be secured if you have the absolute strength to prevent the war yourself,” said North Korea’s US Ambassador Kim Song in an address to the UN General Assembly.
“We have obtained the reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defense by tightening our belts. Peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in the region are now firmly defended.”
The envoy also said that “enemy forces” “are hindering our advance,” an indication of severe international sanctions against the country.
The comments come just a month after independent monitors of United States sanctions reported to the United States Security Council in August that North Korea appears to be moving ahead with its nuclear weapons program. They found that several countries believed “likely to have developed miniaturized nuclear devices that fit into the warheads of their ballistic missiles”.
Ambassador Kim said, however, that North Korea is still threatened by military equipment such as stealth fighters in the Korean peninsula, adding that “nuclear weapons of all kinds are aimed directly at the DPRK” using the country’s official name, the People’s Democratic Republic Korea.
Pyongyang is already facing severe international sanctions related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and is facing significant economic damage due to significant border closings to prevent the coronavirus pandemic and deal with the damage caused by recent severe storms and floods.
“The DPRK is now focusing all its efforts on economic development,” said Kim. “The fact is that we desperately need an external environment conducive to economic development … but we cannot sell our dignity in the hope of a brilliant transformation.”
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a Central Committee meeting on Tuesday addressing “complacency” and “negligence” on natural disaster, economic and COVID-19 issues, according to state media KCNA.
North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus infections and has put in place tough virus control measures including closing its borders, although the US and South Korea doubt they managed to avoid the pandemic entirely.
North Korea’s ruling party scheduled a congress in January to approve a new five-year plan for the nation, state media reported last month after a party conference found serious delays in improving the country’s economy and living standards of 25 million.
Regardless, the country is embroiled in a debacle with its neighbor over the mysterious death of a South Korean official last week.
The South Korean Ministry of Defense said the north shot and burned the body of a 47-year-old man after he disappeared from a government boat near Yeonpyeong Island, near the South Korean maritime border.
The incident sparked a rare apology from the North Korean leader in a letter quoting him as deeply regretting the “unfortunate incident in our waters”.
Although North Korea admitted that its military officials fired blanks and later “ten rounds” shots at the “intruder” and burned a floating device that he washed up on, they said they had not found his body.
South Korea over the weekend called for an unprecedented joint investigation into the incident between the two countries after Seoul once again urged engagement in Pyongyang. However, the north has so far remained silent on this issue.
Reuters contributed to this report.