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NK leader lambastes sanctions, inspects key economic zone

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un criticized international sanctions against his regime, pledging to prove to “hostile forces” that his country is capable of growing into a powerful nation, the North’s media reported Thursday.

“The hostile forces are foolishly keen on vicious sanctions to stand in our way toward promotion of the people’s wellbeing and development and to lead us to change and submission,” the Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying during a trip to the Wonsan-Kalma tourist area, a site on the North’s east coast that is currently under construction.

“But they will be made to clearly see over time how our country, which has built its strength hundreds of times, defying hardship, built its own country as a powerful nation by its own strength, technology and efforts,” it added.

 
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the Wonsan-Kalma tourist area on the North’s east coast, currently under construction, in a footage released by Pyonyang`s Korean Central Television on Nov. 1. (Korean Central Television)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the Wonsan-Kalma tourist area on the North’s east coast, currently under construction, in a footage released by Pyonyang`s Korean Central Television on Nov. 1. (Korean Central Television)

“In time, it will be made clearly visible how we, a nation that increased its strengths a hundredfold against hardships, built a powerful nation with our own strengths and technologies, with our own hands,” Kim was also quoted as saying.

Kim also acknowledged his country’s dire economic situation, but added that because of “the will and solidarity” of the North Korean people, they will be able to build not only a tourist zone, but several “monumental creations, peoples’ possessions and newfound happiness,” which the world will eventually come to envy, according to the KCNA.

Achieving success on large-scale construction projects such as the Kalma project would have a “bull’s-eye” effect on those “hostile forces,” Kim added.

Kim’s criticisms come amid growing signs of a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a North Korean counterpart next week. The meeting, if it happens, is expected to be a chance for Washington and Pyongyang to make progress in the stalled denuclearization talks.

“The criticisms are complaints on the US’ reluctance to lift or alleviate sanctions despite the decisions they have made or carried out toward denuclearization,” Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said.

“The main purpose behind their promises to dismantle the nuclear program is to achieve economic development, yet the US is only strengthening its pressure campaign,” he added, suggesting that the North could be attempting to set the tone for its next meeting with the US.

The US Treasury Department on Wednesday issued an advisory cautioning its financial institutions against engaging in financial deals with the North, calling the communist nation a “primary money laundering concern,” the Voice of America reported Thursday. The department had issued a similar warning in September, according to the VOA.

On denuclearization talks, many believe that the standstill resulted from the inability of the US and the North to reach a consensus on the details of the concessions each side was willing to offer at the negotiation table.

North Korea demands the US agree declare an end to the Korean War and ease sanctions against it, while the US wants the North to take more concrete denuclearization steps, such as presenting it with an inventory of the North’s nuclear materials and facilities. There is growing skepticism in Washington concerning the North’s willingness to denuclearize.

Until earlier this week, it is believed that Kim Jong-un was absent from the public eye for nearly three weeks. His visit to Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, near the Chinese border, where he inspected houses, facilities and other buildings under construction as part of a “field guidance” activity, was his first reported public activity in 19 days.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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