North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would continue developing long-range nuclear strike capabilities in 2017, while apologizing for failing to achieve certain goals in 2016, a video recording of his New Year’s Day speech showed on Sunday.
Pyongyang will reach the final preparation stages for test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Kim said, notable because North Korea has historically suggested its long-range rocket launches are intended solely for satellite launch purposes.
“The project of test-firing an intercontinental ballistic rocket enters into the final stage, which is included in [the country’s achievement],” Kim said.
The statement follows remarks by high-profile North Korean diplomatic defector Thae Yong Ho that North Korea intends to complete its nuclear weapons development cycle by the end of 2017.
Clad in a Western-style suit, Kim further said in his noon speech on Korean Central Television (KCTV) that Pyongyang would become “a powerful country with nuclear weapons” in 2017.
And Kim further pledged to reinforce North Korea’s self-defense and preemptive strike capabilities by “making nuclear weapons a cornerstone (policy)” as long as the United States and South Korea “continue their nuclear threats” and annual joint military drills.
APOLOGY AND ANGER
Unlike his previous New Year’s addresses, the speech was also notable because Kim apologized – to an extent – to North Korean citizens, while also referencing the South Korean president by name.
“Seeing that another year has started, my heart grows heavy with thoughts on how I may serve our people – the best in the world who trust and supports me with their solidarity – better and higher this year,” Kim Jong Un said towards the end of his address.
“I have spent the whole year with regrets and a guilty conscience, to see my ability failing to reach what I have planned for the people. This year, I have made up my mind to spur on to greater efforts and to devote all of myself to the people.”
But Kim criticized the South for driving inter-Korean relations to “the worst phase” and urged Seoul to come up with “aggressive measures” to ease military tensions on the Korean peninsula.
“The South Korean government should respond to ‘our sincere efforts’ in preventing military collisions between the North and the South and alleviate the state of tension,” Kim said.
“The ‘adulterine smear campaign against the DPRK and hostile actions,’ with an expectation of regime… change, should be immediately stopped,” Kim added.
While Kim said he was willing to discuss reconciliation with his South Korean counterpart in his 2016 New Year’s speech, he specifically referenced the name of the now-disgraced South Korean president in Sunday’s speech.
“We should vigorously engage in an all-national (meaning both Koreas) fight for smashing activities of anti-unification and unpatriotic group with toadyism like Park Geun-hye,” Kim said.
Kim also slammed the South’s political situation, describing a series of candle vigils in the South calling for impeached President Park to step down as “anti-government rallies.”
The rallies are a sign of an “explosion of deep-rooted grudge and anger against the conservative government, which strives for dictatorship, inhumane policies, flunkeyism and quislingism and fratricidal confrontation,” Kim said.
On the economic front, Kim heavily emphasized successes the DPRK achieved from its 70-day battle and 200-day battle, the two major national campaigns which were underway for a large part of last year.
Describing the two campaigns as “grandiose and creative battles” that opened the path towards the “new age,” Kim said their successes brought the “turning points on every battle line” to North Korea.
Kim also referred to a “miraculous victory” while describing the North’s flood recovery work, a disaster which swept the country from late August to September last year.
Claiming that multiple factories, companies, and collective farms achieved record-breaking outcomes in 2016, Kim once again highlighted the mentality of Jagangnyeok (self-sustainability) as the key to boosting the economy in 2017, a term that was repeated many times during the previous year’s address.
Furthermore, Kim said the nation’s five-year economic growth plan – a long-term economic strategy first outlined in 2016 – should be continued.
And while stressing the need to improve the state’s scientific output, electric production, chemistry, metal industry, mechanics, farming, fishing, and coal production, Kim especially stressed the importance of light industry.
Ordering the nationalization of the state production process, Kim also outlined an intention to define proper business strategies to diversify and increase the quality of North Korean-made consumer goods produced from light industry infrastructure.
Kim has also said that workers should finish the ongoing refurbishment of Ryomyong Street, a luxury residence boulevard in Pyongyang originally meant to be completed by December 2016, but delayed due to flood rehabilitation efforts.
The annual speeches of North Korean leaders are regularly scrutinized by analysts for signs of potential policy changes for the year ahead.
This article was written by Dagyum Ji and JH Ahn
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun