North Korea wrapped up its four-day Workers’ Party conference on Monday by declaring it would continue working on nuclear weapons — for “defensive” purposes, of course — and threatening to wipe out South Korea, if their neighbor “opts for war.”
The resolution to live in peace with South Korea — or kill everyone in South Korea if they don’t agree to peaceful cooperation, as defined by Pyongyang — was adopted on Sunday.
The Associated Press notes news about the resolution was not revealed until the following day, because the North Korean government has been keeping most foreign reporters out of the party congress meeting hall, obliging them to rely on much-delayed updates from Pyongyang’s state-run news agency.
The regime also arrested, detained, and ultimately deported at least one reporter, Rupert Wingfield-Haynes of the BBC, because his coverage “spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country,” as the Secretary-General of North Korea’s National Peace Committee put it.
Also on Sunday, the party congress got to enjoy a three-hour speech from dictator Kim Jong-un, who declared North Korea is a “responsible nuclear state that will not use its nuclear weapons first unless its sovereignty was threatened.”
The speech included what the AP sees as “possible overtures” to the United States and other adversaries, but Kim also insisted North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons unless every other nation, particularly the U.S., gives theirs up first.
The peace overture to South Korea was similarly nuanced. Kim pushed for a form of “reunification” that would essentially leave his regime in power, an idea that has understandably found little purchase with Seoul.
Kim then stated that if “the South Korean authorities opt for a war, persisting in the unreasonable ‘unification of social systems,’ we will turn out in the just war to mercilessly wipe out the anti-reunification forces and achieve the historic cause of national reunification, long-cherished desire of all Koreans.”
“We have not given up on dialogue, but it is only when the North shows sincerity about decentralization that genuine dialogue is possible,” said South Korea Unification Ministry spokesman Cheong Joon-hee, responding to reports of Kim Jong-un’s reunification proposal, as reported by Reuters.
Reuters also reported on the Workers’ Party resolution to continue strengthening North Korea’s “defensive nuclear weapons capability,” in defiance of United Nations resolutions.
Kim declared that North Korea would only use its nuclear weapons if threatened by “invasive hostile forces with nuclear weapons,” as CNN reports.
Kim called on North Koreans to “boost self-defensive nuclear force in both quality and quantity,” and also declared their weapons development had “elevated our respect to the world and enemies.”
Kim also praised the “golden age of socialist construction” his country has supposedly entered, vowing to improve the standard of living for his citizens while asserting that North Korea is now strong enough to stand on its own. CNN notes that according to Chinese media, no officials from Beijing were invited to the Pyongyang party congress — a snub intended to stress the idea that North Korea is politically and economically independent.
The Workers Party bestowed the title of Party Chairman on Kim during the congress, a move the Associated Press describes as highlighting “how the authoritarian country’s first congress in 36 years is aimed at bolstering the young leader.”