April 03, 2013 12:50
North Korea's Workers Party and Supreme People's Assembly in back-to-back meetings on Sunday and Monday rubber-stamped a two-track strategy of pursuing economic development and bolstering the renegade country's nuclear arsenal.
The regime even drew up a separate law justifying to bolster its nuclear arsenal, which states that it will be used for "retaliatory strikes" against what it called the "stronghold of invasions."
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to gain a "stronger grip" on his nuclear weapons. The regime's obsession with nuclear weapons was confirmed when it threatened to restart a 5MW graphite-moderated nuclear reactor in Yongbyon that was shut down in 2008 under an international agreement.
The Supreme People's Assembly on Monday appointed Pak Pong-ju, a veteran technocrat who led North Korea's tentative economic reforms a decade ago, as prime minister. Pak first became prime minister in September 2003 by former leader Kim Jong-il but sacked in 2007 when ascendant hardliners felt his economic reforms were going too far.
The younger Kim probably brought Pak back due to fears that his own power would be at risk if the North's economy gets even worse, as under tougher international sanctions it is likely to do.
Still, Kim is dreaming if he thinks he can build up the country's economy simultaneously with its nuclear arsenal. The regime has been brainwashing its people that nuclear weapons would enable it to channel resources into bolstering the economy without having to spend money on defense. But the main reason North Korea became one of the poorest countries in the world is that it poured all of its money into developing nuclear weapons and missiles, while isolating itself from the world through its bellicose behavior.
The North's fixation on nuclear weapons and missiles prompted the UN to tighten sanctions twice this year. As long as Pyongyang holds on to its nuclear plan, crucial aid from the international community will remain frozen.
President Park Geun-hye in a first meeting of her security officials on Tuesday said it is crucial to make North Korea understand that it cannot afford to launch another provocation.
The U.S. has put on a massive show of force in recent joint exercises with South Korea, but Seoul and Washington are more than willing to talk with North Korea and provide economic aid if it abandons its nuclear ambitions. If the North really wants to develop its economy, the path it must take is clear.
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