North Korea's Kim orders military to speed up war preparations – state media

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un State media reported on Thursday that it had ordered its military, munitions industry and nuclear weapons department to speed up war preparations to counter what it called America's unprecedented confrontational moves.

Speaking on policy guidelines for the new year at a key meeting of the country's ruling party on Wednesday, Kim also said Pyongyang would expand strategic cooperation with “anti-imperialist and independent” countries, KCNA news agency reported.

“He (Kim) put forward militant tasks for the People's Army and the arms industry, nuclear weapons and civil defense departments, and accelerated war preparations,” KCNA said.

North Korea has been expanding ties with Russia, with Washington accusing Pyongyang of supplying Moscow with military equipment for use in its war with Ukraine, while Russia provides technical support to improve the North's military capabilities.

Kim also laid out economic goals for the new year during the meeting, which the statement said was a “decisive year” to fulfill the country's five-year development plan.

“He … clarified the important tasks for the new year that should be dynamically pushed forward in key industrial sectors,” and called for “stabilization of agricultural production at a high level.”

The North has experienced severe food shortages in recent decades, including famine in the 1990s, mostly as a result of natural disasters. International experts have warned that closing borders during the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened food security.

North Korea's crop production is estimated to increase year-on-year in 2023 due to favorable weather conditions. But a Seoul official said the amount was still far short of what was needed to address the country's chronic food shortages.

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The 9th Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea opened on Tuesday. To cap off a year in which the isolated North enshrined its nuclear policy in its constitution, launched a spy satellite and launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

Days-long meetings of party and government officials have been used in recent years to make major policy announcements. Earlier, state media published Kim's speech on New Year's Day.

(Reporting by So-hyang Choi; Editing by Chris Reese and Jamie Freed)

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