SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament has passed decisions made by a major ruling party meeting where leader Kim Jong Un vowed to bolster his nuclear deterrent and established plans to salvage a dismal economy.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency said Monday that members of the Supreme People’s Assembly during Sunday’s meeting unanimously supported the development plans for the next five years that were revealed during the Workers’ Party congress that ended last week.
The assembly also approved a major reshuffle of the Cabinet, which Kim had criticized over failures in economic policies. KCNA said six of the Cabinet’s eight premiers were replaced.
North Korean premier Kim Tok Hun, who has led the Cabinet since August after his predecessor was sacked, said during a speech at the assembly that “serious mistakes” were observed while the Cabinet implemented the previous five-year development plan that ended last year.
Reports and images from state media suggested Kim Jong Un did not attend the assembly. State media also didn’t mention a reshuffling of the State Affairs Commission, the government’s highest decision-making body that is led by Kim.
Meetings of the Supreme People’s Assembly are usually brief, annual affairs that are intended to approve budgets, formalize personnel changes and rubber-stamp policy priorities set by Kim and the ruling party leadership.
During the party congress, Kim called for accelerated national efforts to build a military arsenal that could viably target Asian U.S. allies and the American homeland and announced a long wish-list of new sophisticated assets, including longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites and tactical nuclear weapons.
The North showcased some of its most advanced strategic assets during a nighttime military parade on Thursday, including what appeared to be a new ballistic missile designed to be fired from submarines.
Analysts say Kim is clearly trying to pressure the incoming U.S, administration of Joe Biden, who inherits a derailed nuclear diplomacy from President Donald Trump that imploded over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling U.S.-led sanctions against the North and the North’s disarmament steps.
Kim also used the congress to announce new national development plans for the next five years to salvage his broken economy. Some analysts say the prolonged sanctions combined with pandemic-related border closures and natural disasters that wiped out crops last year are possibly setting conditions for an economic perfect storm in the North that destabilizes markets and triggers public panic and unrest.