Kim, who on the first day of this year’s Congress admitted to failures to meet goals set at the Seventh Party Congress in 2016, said Wednesday he would strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities, party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Thursday.
According to state media, Kim “reaffirmed his great will to strengthen national defense to a higher level and protect the country and the people’s safety and peaceful environment [required for] socialist construction.”
While defense policy was mentioned on Thursday, North Korean media reported the Congress focused on an evaluation of the nation’s economy. North Korea said the “second-day sitting” focused on “transport, capital construction, and the building materials industry.”
Kim has previously claimed the regime has accomplished the “perfecting” of its nuclear program, during his 2018 New Year’s Address. After diplomatic talks with the United States broke down in 2019, Kim said that year he would put on “constant alert” a “powerful nuclear deterrent.”
Choi Yong-hwan, chief of the security strategy research department of the Institute for National Security Strategy in South Korea, told local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun on Thursday the North Korean report covering the second day of the Party Congress was conveying the purpose of strategic weapons.
Pyongyang’s mention of the need to protect a “peaceful environment” emphasizes the weapons’ goal of defense or deterrence, and not attack, Choi said.
North Korea has not confirmed when the Party Congress will draw to a conclusion. The event began on Tuesday with nearly 5,000 delegates in attendance and 2,000 observers, state media said.
Cho Han-beom, a senior research fellow at state-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said it is likely the Party Congress will likely conclude on Friday, Kim’s birthday. The occasion could be marked with a parade and state ceremonies, Cho said, according to South Korean news service News 1.