North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ordered senior communist leaders to “deal a telling blow to the hostile forces” supporting sanctions against the regime in remarks Wednesday, presumably meaning the United States but not naming any “hostile forces” in particular.
Kim’s language during the Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) – the only legal political party in North Korea – as relayed by North Korea’s state propaganda arms on Thursday differs significantly from the more concerned remarks published following the meeting on Wednesday. State media stated at the time that Kim admitted that North Korea was in a “tense situation” as a result of sanctions damaging its economy.
While, thanks to the communist system, the average North Korean citizen has endured extreme poverty for decades, the international sanctions placed on the country following its most recent illegal nuclear weapons test in 2017 have adversely affected the comfortable lives of the few Party leaders who have access to the nation’s riches, triggering a sense of urgency in country’s political elite.
Kim addressed this situation before the highest-ranking members of his party. The country’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) stated that the dictator presented a report on the current state of North Korea that featured “a scientific analysis of the changed international landscape and the peculiarities of the present situation becoming daily acute and clarified the main tenor of the recent DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. summit talks and the Party’s stand towards it.”
While doing so, he urged the party to organize for the purpose of dealing “a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees.”
Kim did not directly state he wished for North Korea to deal a “blow” to the United States, but Washington has been the loudest international voice calling for ongoing sanctions on Kim’s regime. President Donald Trump abruptly ended his most recent meeting with Kim, in February, telling reporters he refused to accept North Korea’s condition that the discussion require the United States to support lifting all sanctions on Pyongyang.
“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters after canceling all scheduled events with Kim on February 28. “He wants to de-nuke, but he wants to do some areas that aren’t what we want.”
Trump’s remarks appeared to come as a shock to the Kim regime, which had declared in state propaganda that it expected a “major breakthrough” at the talks that would favor North Korea. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho accused Trump of lying about the details of the meeting, telling reporters that Kim had offered a “realistic proposal” for ending sanctions, including the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Yongbyon is a hub for enriching and processing nuclear material, much of which North Korea has used in weapons, and is believed to remain in operation long after Pyongyang claimed to have shut down its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site.
Another North Korean official, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, went on to threaten to end all communication with the “gangster-like” United States following Trump’s decision to walk away from his meeting with Kim.
“We have no intention to yield to the US demands [put forward at the Hanoi summit] in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” Choe declared.
Kim made clear in his remarks as published by KCNA Thursday that mitigating the sanctions’ effect on the micro-economy that exists only for North Korea’s elite was a priority, and would take center stage in Thursday’s scheduled parliamentary meeting. As the WPK, chaired by Kim Jong-un, is the only political party in North Korea, the nation’s parliament does not exist as a separate branch of government from the executive.
“The entire party, the whole country and all the people should courageously wage an all-out death-defying campaign to bring about a great surge in socialist construction by taking self-reliance as a treasured sword of prosperity today when the building of an economic power is raised as the main political task,” Kim reportedly said. “He underlined the need to vigorously wage a grand advance for attaining the goals of economic construction … to give full play to the offensive stamina of the country.”
North Korean state media had initially published an abridged version of Kim’s remarks on Wednesday that included his admission that the nation was in a “tense situation,” but did not antagonize the United States. Instead, those published remarks demanded that North Korean political leaders “fully display a high sense of responsibility and creativity” to meet the challenge of the United States refusing to yield on sanctions, presumably without conceding any of Washington’s demands. America has urged North Korea to end its illegal nuclear weapons program, respect human rights, and break off diplomatic ties to most of the world’s most notorious rogue regimes, including Syria, Venezuela, and Iran.