North Korea’s newly-appointed foreign minister last week promised the country would aim to “confront and overpower” hostile powers’ policy of sanctions and pressure against it, in a speech to foreign diplomats obtained by NK News.
Ri Son Gwon, who was last week revealed to have replaced Ri Yong Ho as North Korea’s top diplomat, gave his first public address in the position to a gathering of foreign diplomats last Thursday — a speech mentioned in passing by DPRK state media but not published in full.
The speech saw Ri — a former Senior Colonel in the North Korean military known for his hard-line views on South Korea and the U.S. — assess the events of 2019 and look ahead to the new year.
“Even in the face of the unprecedentedly harsh challenges and difficulties, our People strengthened further the absolute weaponry of Juche,” the minister is quoted as having said in a readout of the address.
“A great advance was made in the efforts for putting the national economy on a Juche and modern basis, and tremendous successes were achieved in enhancing the defense capabilities that could guarantee our sovereignty and right to existence,” he continued.
He then turned to what to expect in 2020, beginning by praising a recent speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a key ruling party plenary session last month and pledging to fight pressure from without while continuing to develop its national defense capabilities.
“Our people, who are vigorously advancing, firmly united around comrade Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs commission, will confront and overpower the anti-DPRK barbaric sanctions and pressure of the hostile forces,” Ri said.
“It is the unwavering will of the DPRK to further increase the strength of justice for defending its sovereignty and security and safeguarding the global peace and stability.”
The minister also sought to extend an olive branch to other countries, pledging that the DPRK would continue “to develop the bonds of friendship and cooperation” with nations that “respect the sovereignty of our country and are friendly to us.”
“I expect that fresh and excellent results would be provided in the year 2020 in developing… bilateral and multilateral relations driven by deep mutual understanding,” he told assembled diplomats.
These relations would be improved, he continued, “through increased exchanges of views and cooperation among all of us and by impartial and constructive views and positions.”
News of Ri’s appointment last week was greeted with trepidation by some observers, given his reputation as a hardliner and recent suggestions by Pyongyang that it no longer felt bound by a self-imposed moratorium on missile and nuclear testing in place since April 2018.
Speaking to journalists in the wake of Ri’s promotion, a senior U.S. State Department official insisted that Washington’s diplomatic strategy would remain unchanged.
“So on North Korea, slow, patient, steady diplomacy,” the official said. “We’re going to stick with this plan. It’s working.”
“We’ll coordinate with allies and partners in the region to continue to make sure that that pressure is steady and insist that UN Security Council resolutions are enforced,” he added.
“That will continue to make clear to the North that they need to come out and negotiate and talk.”
Ri’s appointment also came amid a broader reshuffle of the North Korean top brass initiated at last month’s ruling party plenum — a reshuffle which also saw the country appoint a new defense minister and ruling party foreign policy chief.
Edited by James Fretwell
North Korea's newly-appointed foreign minister last week promised the country would aim to "confront and overpower" hostile powers' policy of sanctions and pressure against it, in a speech to foreign diplomats obtained by NK News.
Ri Son Gwon, who was last week revealed to have replaced Ri Yong Ho as North Korea's top diplomat, gave his first public address in the position to a gathering of foreign diplomats last Thursday -- a speech mentioned in passing by DPRK state media but not published in full.