Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s Leader calls for Better Living Conditions

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un urged officials on Monday to overcome the country’s “dark circumstance” and make greater efforts to enhance his people’s food and living conditions.

However, when reporting on Kim’s speech commemorating the 76th anniversary of the formation of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media made no particular references to Washington or Seoul.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been stuck for more than two years due to disputes on how to exchange the lifting of severe US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

In recent weeks, the country has increased its missile testing while offering conditional peace proposals to Seoul, resuming a pattern of pressing South Korea to gain what it wants from the US.

During his speech on Sunday, Kim stated that his party is committed to achieving the economic goals set during the party’s convention in January when he admitted that his prior economic plans had failed and released new five-year development plans.

Kim reaffirmed the party’s will to carry out the five-year plan effectively in order to strengthen “the national economy and resolve people’s food, clothing, and housing problems”.

According to the KCNA, Kim analysed the North’s “unprecedented difficulties” and called for the party’s unwavering unity in growing the state economy in the face of the “grim situation.” Analysts believe Kim is about to face his most difficult test in nearly a decade in power. After failing to secure much-needed sanctions relief during his meetings with then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019, the coronavirus pandemic forced North Korea to close its borders, causing further economic shock after decades of mismanagement and sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapons programme.

Last Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that part of its COVID-19 medical supplies had arrived at a North Korean port, indicating that the North was loosening one of the world’s harshest pandemic border barriers in order to receive outside assistance.

Kim has so far turned down the Biden administration’s proposals to reopen talks without restrictions, claiming that Washington must first end its “hostile policy,” a term the North uses to describe sanctions and joint military drills between the US and South Korea.

However, in recent weeks, the North has reestablished communication channels with the South and stated that if Seoul abandons its “double-dealing attitude” and “hostile viewpoint,” it may take further efforts to normalise bilateral relations. Analysts believe North Korea is utilising the South’s desire for inter-Korean interaction to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul and pressure the South to gain concessions on its behalf from the Biden administration.