North Korea ‘will not use nukes first’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country will not use its nuclear weapons first unless its sovereignty is invaded, in a speech during a critical party congress that struck a conciliatory note in the face of international pressure over its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

Kim said he is ready to improve ties with “hostile” nations, and called for more talks with rival South Korea to reduce misunderstanding and distrust between them.

He also urged the United States to stay away from inter-Korean issues, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

“Our republic is a responsible nuclear state that, as we made clear before, will not use nuclear weapons first unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to invade on our sovereignty,” Kim said in a speech carried by the KCNA.

The North’s Korean Central Television yesterday showed Kim delivering the speech at Pyongyang’s April 25 House of Culture, wearing a black dress suit, a grey tie, and horn-rimmed glasses that resembled the ones worn by his late grandfather and North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

He said that North Korea “will sincerely fulfill its duties for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and work to realise the denuclearisation of the world.”

The North is ready to improve and normalise ties with countries hostile to it if they respect its sovereignty and approach it in a friendly manner, Kim said.

Despite the talks about more diplomatic activity, Kim also made it clear that the North has no plans to discard its “byongjin” policy of simultaneously developing its nuclear weapons and its domestic economy.

In a speech published by the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper, Kim described the twin policy as a strategy the party must permanently hold on to for the “maximised interest of our revolution.”

Many outside analysts consider the policy unlikely to succeed because of the heavy price North Korea pays for its nuclear programme in terms of international sanctions that keep its economy from growing.

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.


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