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N. Korea stresses need to strengthen military capabilities amid 'growing instability'

Seoul, Jan 1 (IANS) North Korean officials noting the "growing instability" of the military situation on the peninsula, emphasised the importance of boosting the country's defense capabilities, as they had a major Workers' Party plenary earlier this week, according to Pyongyang's state media Saturday.

They described the continued development of advanced weapons systems as a "significant" achievement for 2021 during the five-day 4th plenary meeting of the party's 8th Central Committee that concluded in Pyongyang on Friday. Leader Kim Jong-un attended the session.

"The growing instability of the military situation on the Korean Peninsula and international circumstances are demanding us to more powerfully push forward with strengthen national defense capabilities without a hitch," Yonhap reported citing Korean Central Broadcasting Station.

The North said it has reviewed key policy directions for inter-Korean relations and foreign affairs in response to fast-changing and ever developing international political situations during the party gathering, but did not give further details.

"The defense industry should achieve goals for modernisation and scientification... of the industry according to plan to drive qualitative change of the country's defense capabilities," it said.

During the session, the North again named anti-virus efforts as "the most important" national business, a move feared to dampen Seoul's hope for the resumption of dialogue and cross-border exchanges.

Pyongyang has imposed strict border closure since the start of Covid-19, and claims to be coronavirus-free.

On the economic front, the North rolled out a series of measures to develop the country's agricultural sector as part of efforts to tackle chronic food shortages.

The North is estimated to be falling short by around 1 million tons of food every year, with the coronavirus-driven border lockdown believed to have taken a toll on North Korea's already substandard food situation.'