SEOUL (AP) – North Korea on Thursday urged its 1.2 million soldiers to stand behind leader Kim Jong Un and defend him with their lives as the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of his ascension to supreme commander of the army.
The anniversary coincides with a key multi-day political conference in the country where officials are expected to discuss how to address the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic and diplomacy with the United States.
In a lengthy editorial, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published that North Korean military commanders and soldiers must become an “impregnable fortress and bulletproof walls to devoutly defend (Kim) with their lives.”
He also called for the construction of a more modernized advanced Army that serves as a “reliable guardian of our state and our people.” The editorial said that all North Korean troops and people must defend Kim’s leadership to establish a powerful socialist country.
North Korea has previously issued similar propaganda statements urging people to back Kim in times of trouble. Some experts say Kim is dealing with the most difficult time of his decade in office due to the coronavirus pandemic, UN sanctions and mismanagement.
On Monday, Kim opened a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party to review past projects and determine major policies for the coming year. In two days of meetings, Kim established unspecified development strategies for the country’s rural development, while participants discussed next year’s budget and other agendas, according to state media.
Observers say Pyongyang will likely reveal Kim’s positions on relations with Washington and Seoul, stalled nuclear diplomacy and economic difficulties at the end of the plenary meeting that is expected later this week.
Despite the current difficulties, few outside analysts question Kim’s grip on power. His post as Supreme Commander in the Korean People’s Army was the first senior position assigned to him after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. The current leader holds a host of other high-profile positions, including secretary General of the Workers’ Party and president of the State Affairs Commission.