“Whoever takes office in the US, its basic nature and hostile policy will never change,” Kim Jong-Un said as he declared the US once again as North Korea's "main enemy."

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in this photo supplied by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 9, 2021.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in this photo supplied by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 9, 2021. (Reuters)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal as he disclosed a list of high-tech weapons systems under development, saying the fate of relations with the United States depends on whether it abandons its hostile policy.

Kim’s comments reported on state media on Saturday were seen as applying pressure on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has called Kim a “thug” and has criticised his summits with President Donald Trump.

The Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying the “key to establishing new relations between (North Korea) and the United States is whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy.”

Kim said he won’t use his nuclear arsenal unless “hostile forces” intend to use their nuclear weapons against North Korea first. He also suggested he is open to dialogue if Washington is too, but stressed North Korea must further strengthen its military and nuclear capability to cope with intensifying US hostility.

He again called the US his country’s “main enemy.”

“Whoever takes office in the US, its basic nature and hostile policy will never change,” he said.

The US is expected to return to more orthodox diplomatic approaches under Biden, such as insisting on extensive progress at working-level talks before any leaders' summit can be considered.

Kim "sees a stalemate that won't change anytime soon", said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest.

The process with Trump was brokered by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but Kim said Seoul was in breach of inter-Korean agreements and "and disregarding our warnings that it should stop joint military drills with the US".

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Strategic balance 

Pyongyang has poured vast resources into developing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which it says it needs to defend itself against a possible US invasion.

The programmes have made rapid progress under Kim, including by far its most powerful nuclear blast to date and missiles capable of reaching the entire continental US, at a cost of increasingly stringent international sanctions.

At a military parade in October, it showed off a huge new missile that analysts concurred was the largest road-mobile, liquid-fuelled missile anywhere in the world, and was highly likely to be designed to carry multiple warheads in independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).

The North has also completed plans for a nuclear-powered submarine, Kim said, something that would change the strategic balance.

Such a weapon, if it was built and went into service, could enable Pyongyang to surreptitiously bring its missiles close to the United States, cutting down warning times ahead of any launch.

Designs for the vessel were "in the stage of final examination", Kim said, adding the North was also researching technology including military reconnaissance satellites, supersonic gliding weapons and various warhead types, and was "making preparations for their test and production".

The Biden administration was unlikely to react strongly to Kim's comments as they were "only words", Cho Seong-ryoul of the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul told AFP.

"But if the North carries them into action with provocation or launches, I expect it to respond severely."

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Work report 

Kim's declarations came in his nine-hour work report to the meeting, spread over three days, which KCNA was reporting in detail for the first time.

The congress is the top ruling party gathering, a grand political set-piece that reinforces the regime's authority and can serve as a platform for announcements of policy shifts or elite personnel changes.

For several days, state television has been showing images of the 7,000 delegates and attendees packed into the cavernous April 25 House of Culture venue, none of them wearing masks, repeatedly applauding Kim wildly during his speech.

The gathering comes with North Korea more isolated than ever after closing its borders last January to protect itself against the coronavirus that first emerged in neighbour and key ally China.

That has added to the pressures on the North, with Pyongyang blockading itself far more effectively than even the most hawkish advocate of sanctions could ever hope to achieve, and trade with China at a fraction of the usual level.

In his work report, Kim admitted mistakes had been made in the last five years and that "almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives" in the country's economic plan.

READ MORE: N Korea has 'probably' developed miniaturised nuclear devices: UN report

Source: AFP