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Kim Jong Un starts meeting to chart nuclear strategy toward US

North Korea's Kim Jong Un. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
December 28, 2021

North Korea’s ruling party started a major policy meeting to lay out priorities for the coming year and how to respond to the Biden administration’s invitation to return to nuclear disarmament talks stalled for about two years.

Leader Kim Jong Un attended the opening session of a Workers’ Party Central Committee meeting Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency said. Kim and his top cadres planned to “discuss and decide on the strategic and tactical policies,” according to the brief dispatch published early Tuesday.

There was no indication on how long the meeting would take, but previous such meetings lasted as long as four days, according to NK News. Given the year-end timing of the meeting, it was expected that Kim would skip the leader’s traditional New Year’s Day address for the third straight year and instead lay out his views in a speech to party members.

Kim has shown little public interest in returning to U.S. nuclear talks that were revived and then collapsed under former President Donald Trump. In recent months, Kim has rolled out his latest weaponry designed to deliver nuclear strikes against U.S. allies in Asia.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s economy is now smaller than when Kim took power a decade ago due in large part to the sanctions to punish him for testing nuclear weapons and missiles that can deliver warheads to the U.S. mainland. His decision to close the borders due to the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on what little legal trade North Korea had.

President Joe Biden’s administration has told Kim the door is open for talks and indicated the U.S. could offer incentives to help North Korea’s sanctions-hit economy in exchange for steps to wind down the state’s nuclear arsenal. Kim said in June at a similar meeting his country was open to “both dialogue and confrontation,” offering the highest-level opening for discussions since Biden replaced Trump, who met Kim three times.

Kim subsequently started testing new weapons systems that included long-range cruise missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to all of South Korea and most of Japan as well as a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Washington stepped up the pressure on Pyongyang this month when the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on people and entities for what it said was their connection to human rights abuses. Among those on the list was North Korean Defense Minister Ri Yong Gil and a North Korean animation studio that has helped in work for overseas productions.

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