North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has welcomed the growing economic and military power of his isolated country at the opening of an important annual meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Kim used the opening of the meeting to highlight the “successes and progress” of the past year while calling on officials to “fight more exciting and confident,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Tuesday.
Kim explained how the country’s power increased during last year’s “unprecedentedly arduous and bitter struggle,” in “all areas of politics, military, business and culture,” according to KCNA.
“He emphasized the need to develop strategies for more exciting and confident fighting, based on valuable facts that the country has made practical progress after overcoming all difficulties.”
The days-long session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party is often used to announce important political measures.
This year’s meeting comes after Pyongyang launched a record number of missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), in 2022 and its long-struggling economy is suffering the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting also comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula after Seoul sent fighter jets and attack helicopters on Monday to invade South Korean airspace on what it said was five North Korean drones.
According to South Korea’s central bank, the North Korean economy shrank for the second time in a row in 2021 as some of the world’s strictest pandemic measures and international sanctions deepened the isolation of the reclusive state.
Despite international sanctions and censorship, Kim, the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, has declared his intention to build the world’s most powerful nuclear force and described his country’s status as a nuclear state as “irreversible.”
Kim has repeatedly refused to resume denuclearization talks with the United States and its allies without a commitment from Washington to cease his “hostile policy” of sanctions and military exercises with neighboring South Korea.
Representatives from the USA and South Korea have been warning for months that North Korea is preparing its seventh nuclear weapons test.
North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles last week following joint military exercises by the USA and South Korea.
The launches were the latest in a spate of tests in recent weeks, which were condemned by the USA, South Korea and Japan.