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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's Kim calls US 'biggest enemy' before Biden inauguration

Leader pledges to further strengthen the country's nuclear arsenal, KCNA says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang in this photo supplied by the country's Central News Agency on Jan. 9.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- Describing the United States as North Korea's "biggest enemy," leader Kim Jong Un said he does not expect Washington to change its policy toward Pyongyang whoever is president, state-run media reported Saturday.

At the first congress of the ruling Workers' Party in nearly five years, which started Tuesday ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20., Kim also pledged to further strengthen the country's nuclear arsenal, according to the reports.

It was Kim's first direct mention of Pyongyang's ties with Washington since the U.S. presidential election in November last year.

North Korea should "subdue the United States, the biggest enemy that is a basic obstacle to the development" of the nation's revolution, Kim was quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency as saying at the gathering.

"No matter who is in power in the United States, the substance of the United States and the true spirit of its fundamental policy toward North Korea will never change," Kim said.

To establish a "new relationship" between the two countries, the United States would have to abandon its "hostile" policy toward North Korea, Kim said, adding Pyongyang will not use nuclear weapons unless hostile forces try to utilize them against it.

Regarding inter-Korean ties, Kim said the North has "no need to unilaterally provide goodwill toward the South at this juncture," while calling on Seoul to stop any hostile action.

The Korean Peninsula has been divided since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a cease-fire. Washington, which fought alongside Seoul, technically remains in a state of war with Pyongyang.

KCNA said the congress will continue in session. Speculation had grown that the gathering would be wrapped up on Friday, Kim's presumed birthday, but the state news agency did not elaborate on when it will conclude. The previous party congress, the first in 36 years, was held for four days from May 6, 2016.

After the last congress, Kim accelerated the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, including those that could reach the U.S. mainland. In November 2017, he declared the completion of a "state nuclear force." Starting in June 2018, Kim held meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump three times, but their denuclearization negotiations stalled, making it more difficult for Pyongyang to persuade Washington to lift economic sanctions.

At home, North Korea's economy has become more sluggish after cutting off traffic to and from its neighbors since early last year in an effort to prevent the novel coronavirus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, from entering the nation.

With trade with China, North Korea's closest and most influential ally, plunging and powerful typhoons and flooding devastating the agricultural sector, concerns have been mounting that its citizens are not receiving adequate daily necessities.

At the opening of the ruling party gathering, Kim said in a speech that North Korea failed to achieve the economic development goals set in its strategy through 2020 in almost all sectors.

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