North Korea's Kim Jong Un stressed 'positive and offensive security measures' at key party meeting

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this undated photo released on Dec 29, 2019.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this undated photo released on Dec 29, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for "positive and offensive measures" to ensure security at a ruling party meeting on Sunday (Dec 29) ahead of a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearisation talks with the United States, state media KCNA said on Monday.

Mr Kim convened a meeting of top Workers' Party officials last Saturday to pore over important policy matters amid rising tension over his deadline for Washington to soften its stance in stalled negotiations aimed at dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

During Sunday's session, Mr Kim suggested action in the areas of foreign affairs, the munitions industry and armed forces, stressing the need to take "positive and offensive measures for fully ensuring the sovereignty and security of the country," KCNA said, without elaborating.

Mr Kim discussed state management and economic issues, including measures to improve agriculture, science, education, public health and the environment, it said, as the country's economy has been hit by international sanctions over its weapons programmes.

He "presented the tasks for urgently correcting the grave situation of the major industrial sectors of the national economy", KCNA said.

The meeting was the largest plenary session of the party’s 7th Central Committee since its first gathering in 2013 under Mr Kim, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs. 

The key policy-making organ drew up to 300 attendees. The committee also met in 2018 and in April but in a much smaller scale.

KCNA said the meeting was still under way. It was the first time the gathering has lasted more than one day since Mr Kim took power in late 2011, Seoul’s Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told a regular briefing. 

"By ‘positive and offensive measures,’ they might mean highly provocative action against the United States and also South Korea," said Professor Yang Moo-jin from the University of North Korean studies in Seoul. 

North Korea has urged Washington to offer a new approach to resume negotiations, warning that it may take an unspecified "new path" if the US fails to meet its expectations.

US military commanders said the move could include the testing of a long-range missile, which North Korea suspended since 2017, along with nuclear warhead tests.

Washington would be "extraordinarily disappointed" if North Korea tests a long-range or nuclear missile, White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on Sunday, vowing to take appropriate action as a leading military and economic power.

 

The US had opened channels of communication with North Korea and hoped Mr Kim would follow through on the denuclearisation commitments he made at summits with US President Donald Trump, Mr O'Brien said.

A video released by the US Air Force and reviewed by Reuters on Monday showed a simulation of an Aegis destroyer spotting what appeared to be a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile being fired towards the Pacific over the skies of Japan, prompting the launch of ground interceptor missiles.

The 65-second clip was dated September and released on Dec 2 on the website of the US Defence Visual Information Distribution Service.

A South Korean military source said while it was largely a regular promotional video, its release coincided with heightened tensions amid a recent series of North Korean weapons tests and a war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.