SEOUL (AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed strengthening his country’s military capability with top military officials, state media reported Sunday, with Pyongyang’s end-of-year deadline for the US to offer concessions approaching.
The North promised an ominous “Christmas gift” earlier this month if Washington does not give ground by the end of December. The denuclearisation process has been largely deadlocked since the collapse of a summit in Hanoi at the start of the year.
Pyongyang has carried out a series of static tests at its Sohae rocket facility this month, after a number of weapons launches in recent weeks – some of them described as ballistic missiles by Japan and others.
North Korea is banned from carrying out such tests under UN sanctions.
Kim held an enlarged meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission, for which he serves as chairman.
There, he “gave analysis and briefing on the complicated internal and external situation… to bolster up the overall armed forces of the country,” the North’s official KCNA news agency reported.
“Referring to merits and demerits in the recent work of the People’s Army and matters to be rapidly overcome”, KCNA said, “the Supreme Leader indicated in detail the direction and ways to be maintained” to boost the armed forces.
“Important issues for decisive improvement of the overall national defence and core matters for the sustained and accelerated development of military capability for self-defence,” were also discussed, it added.
The report came a day after the nuclear-armed state warned Washington it would “pay dearly” over criticism of its human rights record by a US state department official.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said the comments were akin to “pouring oil over burning fire” amid heightened tensions in a statement carried by KCNA.