North Korea released on Tuesday the transcript of Kim Jong Un’s speech at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, which lasted for four days until Tuesday, instead of his New Year’s address. In the speech, the North Korean leader put forward a route for a “frontal breakthrough,” which includes the continued development of strategic weapons, such as nuclear weapons and missiles and, and threatened to break the commitment to suspend nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches. However, Kim left a bit of room for dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea by saying, “The scope and depth of deterrence power reinforcement shall be adjusted depending on Washington’s stance toward Pyongyang going forward.”
Several signs of North Korea’s troublesome situation are noticeable in Kim Jong Un’s speech. He frequently criticized the U.S.’ ambivalent behaviors as “gangster-like” while making threats by saying that “the world will see new strategic weapons” and that “shocking actions will manifest.” At the same time, Kim admitted that North Korea is between a rock and a hard place by saying that it is true North Korea is in desperate need of an external environment favorable to build its economy.
As such, Kim Jong Un has not crossed the red line that will destroy the U.S.-North Korea relations despite his announcement to make hardline provocations. North Korea has not made the “Christmas gift” provocation last year even after putting forward the year-end deadline itself and has not revealed what the “new path” is although it has mentioned it from a year ago. In particular, Kim said that there is no ground for Pyongyang to be bound by the commitment to suspend nuclear and ICBM tests anymore, but did not explicitly mention that he will break the commitment or suspend negotiations with the U.S.
The path of a “frontal breakthrough” chosen by North Korea instead is practically an announcement to extend the tensions that have been in place since the end of last year. “The deadlock with the U.S. will be inevitably prolonged,” Kim said. However, he claimed that time is on his side based on the fact that North Korea’s nuclear power will become stronger and irreversible over time if the country will continue to develop nuclear weapons and missiles against the U.S. denying the ease of sanctions.
Such a situation will only lead to more severe sanctions against North Korea, but Kim Jong Un put the resulting pain upon North Korean people. He anticipated a “sustained period of poverty” by mentioning reviving the country on its own and self-sufficiency, while saying, “Let us tighten our belts to build a rich a powerful country on our won.” The measures put forward to achieve the goal are national guidance and management, internalizing a frugal mindset, and meeting deadlines no matter what, which are rather underwhelming to say the least. Despite Kim’s statement that said, “Dignity cannot be given up looking for a splendid transformation,” a national leader starving his people to death for his own dignity should not be allowed.