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North Korea’s Kim discloses new military goals at key party meeting

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has unveiled new goals for his country’s military on the second day of a key meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, which hint at another year of intensive weapons tests and regional tension, state media has reported.

On day two of the meeting on Wednesday, Kim reviewed the “newly created challenging situation” on the Korean Peninsula and the broader political landscapes, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim also set the direction for the “anti-enemy struggle” and goals for reinforcing self-defence in 2023, KCNA reported, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

“He specified the principles of foreign affairs and the direction of the struggle against the enemy that our party and government must thoroughly abide by in order to protect sovereign rights and defend national interests,” KCNA reported.

“New core goals for strengthening self-defensive capabilities to be strongly pursued in 2023 have been presented in preparation for diverse fluctuations in the political situation,” North Korea’s official news agency added.

KCNA did not provide details on the self-defence goals but Kim’s remarks indicate he may continue to accelerate and expand the country’s military capabilities.

The high-level meeting in Pyongyang is being held amid a sharp rise in tension on the Korean Peninsula after a year of unprecedented North Korean weapons tests, large-scale military exercises between South Korean and United States forces, and North Korean drones crossing into South Korea on Monday, prompting Seoul to scramble fighter jets and attack helicopters in a failed bid to shoot them down.

This year saw Pyongyang launching scores of ballistic missiles, with many of the launches designed to test and develop “top priority” strategic weapons under a five-year plan laid out at the Workers’ Party congress in early 2021.

The list of weapons to be developed under the plan includes tactical nuclear weapons, a new intercontinental ballistic missile, hypersonic gliding flight warheads, nuclear-powered submarines, and a military reconnaissance satellite.

During the plenary meeting, Kim also pointed out “a series of serious shortcomings” in such areas as science, education and health this year, suggested ways to overcome them and raised key tasks for next year, KCNA said.

The economy is also high on the agenda, with Kim facing mounting pressure from international sanctions, the fallout from a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown and natural disasters.

The meeting will continue for a third day on Thursday, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

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