Kim Jong-un Warns 2022 Will Be Year of 'Great Life-And-Death Struggle'

© REUTERS / KCNANorth Korea's leader Kim Jong Un leads the first workshop of the commanders and political officers of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in Pyongyang, North Korea in this image supplied by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on July 30, 2021.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un leads the first workshop of the commanders and political officers of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in Pyongyang, North Korea in this image supplied by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on July 30, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.01.2022
SEOUL (Sputnik) - In his closing speech of the year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called 2021 the year of a great victory of his compatriots, adding that 2022 will be the year of a "life-and-death" struggle, the Korean Central News Agency (KSNA) reported on Saturday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's lack of focus on the United States, South Korea and nuclear weapons in a speech delivered on New Year's Eve has triggered speculations.
Speaking at the end of the fourth plenary session of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of North Korea (WPK) of the eighth convocation, held from 27 to 31 December, Kim Jong-un focused on the domestic agenda, including a plan for rural development, tractor factories, school uniforms and the need to crack down on "non-socialist practices", according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KSNA).
According to KSNA, the WPK discussed the country's budget for 2022, the results of 2021 and plans for the coming year, agriculture, and changes in the WPK charter.
The speech, which came as the nation marked the North Korean leader’s 10th year in power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in 2011, is said to have laid out the country’s main goals for 2022 as boosting economic development and improving people's lives in the face of a "great life-and-death struggle".
"The main task facing our party and people next year is to provide a sure guarantee for the implementation of the five-year plan and bring about a remarkable change in the state development and the people's standard of living," Kim was quoted as saying.
While previously Kim Jong Un had used such end-of-year addresses for delivering major policy announcements, this time no specific mention of the US was made.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since 2019, with the US calling for North Korea to step away from its nuclear programme but reluctant to first offer sanctions relief, causing the deal to fall apart.
Only passing mention in Kim’s latest speech was made of inter-Korean relations or South Korea’s push for a declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War as a way to restart negotiations, added the official media of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Last month marked an important development for the Korean peninsula. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in December that his country, China, North Korea, and the United States had agreed in principle to a declaration putting an end to the Korean War, which de facto ended in 1953. This occurred after the US and Democratic People's Republic of Korea ratified an armistice without signing a peace treaty. However, the Korean peninsula is still formally in a state of war until a peace treaty is signed.
It was domestic challenges the speech targeted, where North Korea’s self-imposed anti-pandemic border lockdown back in January 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from China left the nation ever more isolated. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, other international aid groups have been warning of possible food shortages and a humanitarian crisis in North Korea.
Military issues were highlighted in Kim’s speech by Saturday's state media as well. Thus, they cited development of "one ultra-modern weapon system after another" in the course of 2021, as the North Korean leader called for production of powerful, modern weapons systems to improve the military forces. Kim also urged the military's "absolute loyalty and allegiance" to the ruling party led by him, according to KCNA.
"The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean peninsula and international politics have instigated calls to vigorously push forward with our national defecse build-up plans without any delay," Kim Jong Un was cited as underscoring in his speech.
The tractor factory mentioned by Kim was speculated by foreign analysts as being likely used to build launch vehicles for missiles.
The United States earlier said it is ready to engage in dialogue with North Korea regarding denuclearisation without preconditions. Kim, for his part, outlined in June that his country must be ready for "both dialogue and confrontation" with Washington.
Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea were launched by ex-President Donald Trump, yet failed to materialise in a deal in 2019. Throughout 2021 Pyongyang has occasionally tested new weapons systems that were said to include long-range cruise missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to all of South Korea and most of Japan, along with a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.
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