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North Korea’s Kim stresses self-sufficient economy as tensions with South Korea rise

By Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint

Staff Writer for Telegraph Local | See my LinkedIn

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un focuses on domestic economic issues at a meeting of the politburo of the country’s ruling Workers Party, said the state media on Monday, as the North piled up pressure on South Korea over defector activities.

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The two-day politburo meeting comes at a time of economic uncertainty amid the global COVID-19 pandemic that is increasing pressure on the North’s economy, already battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear program.

The meeting discussed “crucial issues arising in further developing the self-sufficient economy of the country and improving the standard of people’s living,” state news agency KCNA said.

Kim did not mention the North’s increased criticism of South Korea or of the North Korean defectors who call it home.

North Korea has lashed out at South Korea, threatening to close an inter-Korean liaison office and other projects if the South does not stop defectors from sending leaflets and other material into the North for several days.

On Monday morning, North Korea did not answer a routine daily liaison phone call from South Korean officials for the first time in since 2018, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

According to the New York Times, South Korea’s government said it remains committed to following inter-Korean agreements, and it is considering proposing legislation to ban groups from sending material into North Korea.

KCNA’s report on the 13th political bureau meeting focused on domestic economic issues, including the chemical industry and fertilizer production as “a major thrust front of the national economy.”

Kim has made an unusually small number of outings in recent months, with his absence from a major holiday prompting speculation about his condition, as Pyongyang has stepped up measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Although North Korea says it has no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, South Korea’s main intelligence agency has said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out.

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