North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong -un, has said his country will not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is infringed on by others with nuclear arms, and that it is willing to normalise ties with “hostile” states, state media reported.
The north would faithfully fulfil its obligation for nuclear non-proliferation and strive to end nuclear buildup in the world, Kim said in a report to a congress of its ruling Workers’ party (WPK) which opened on Friday, the KCNA news agency said.
The first congress in 36 years began with much fanfare amid anticipation by the South Korean government and experts that the young leader would try to use it to further consolidate power in the state he took over in 2011 after his father’s sudden death.
“As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. “And it will faithfully fulfil its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for the global denuclearisation.”
“The WPK and the DPRK government will improve and normalise the relations with those countries which respect the sovereignty of the DPRK and are friendly towards it, though they had been hostile toward it in the past.”
Kim also called for improved ties with the rival south by erasing misunderstanding and mistrust, although he had made similar proposals in the past which led to talks by government officials that made little progress.
The North was ready to improve and normalize ties with countries hostile to it if they respected its sovereignty and approach it in a “friendly manner”, Kim said.
He also announced a five-year plan starting this year to develop the North’s dismal economy and identified improving the country’s power supply and increasing its agricultural and light-manufacturing production as the critical parts of the program, the KCNA said.
Analysts have anticipated Kim would use the congress to propose talks with rivals to exploit what he considers to be increased leverage as a nuclear power.
North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test in January and followed with a satellite launch in February that was seen by outside governments as a banned test for long-range missile technology, earning worldwide condemnation and tougher UN sanctions.
The North responded to the punitive measures, and also the annual US-South Korean military drills in March and April, by firing a series of missiles and artillery into the sea. It also claimed advancements in developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and combined them with threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul.
Analysts said that the North’s belligerent stance might have been intended at rallying North Korean people around Kim ahead of the congress and also promote military accomplishments to the domestic audience to make up for the lack of tangible economic achievements to present at the party meeting.
South Korea has taken a hard-line approach to North Korea following its nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, shutting down a jointly-run factory park in a North Korean border town that had been the last remaining symbol of cooperation between the rivals and slapping Pyongyang with its own economic sanctions.
Seoul has also been in talks with Washington on deploying a sophisticated US missile defense system in South Korea.
North Korea had spent the past months resisting talks with the South and threatening attacks against it, but Kim spoke with a different tone at the conference. He said “fundamentally improving” inter-Korean relations was an urgent matter for his government and also called for the South to “hold hands” with the North as a “companion” for unification, the KCNA said.
However, Kim stressed that the South must first employ practical measures to improve ties and throw out laws and institutional systems that have hampered them. He also said that the United States should no longer be involved with matters in the Korean peninsula, and that if enemy forces “ignite the fire of war,” the North was ready to mercilessly punish the aggressors and accomplish the “historical feat” of unification.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said ahead of the North’s ruling party congress in Pyongyang that the priority of any future talks with the North would be its denuclearization.