N Korea’s Kim: Food situation ‘tense’ due to pandemic, typhoon

Country’s leader presides over party meeting to resolve economic issues, as well as address its new policy towards a new US administration.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for measures to tackle the country’s “tense” food situation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s typhoons, which damaged the harvest, state media reported on Wednesday.

Kim told a plenary meeting of the governing Workers’ Party’s central committee said the overall economy had improved in the first half of the year, with total industrial output growing 25 percent from a year before, state news agency KCNA said.

But he noted “a series of deviations” in the party’s efforts to implement the plans due to several obstacles, singling out tight food supplies.

“The people’s food situation is now getting tense as the agricultural sector failed to fulfil its grain production plan due to the damage by typhoon last year,” Kim said.

Sitting on Tuesday, the committee set goals and tasks to achieve its new five-year economic plan outlined at its previous session in February, including increased food and metal production.

‘Failed five-year plan’

The party pledged to direct all efforts to farming this year and discuss ways to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, KCNA said.

Kim called for steps to minimise the impact of natural disasters as the key to attaining this year’s goals.

In January, Kim said his previous five-year economic plan had failed in almost every sector, amid chronic power and food shortages exacerbated by sanctions, the pandemic and floods.

He also said that the protracted pandemic required the party to step up efforts to provide food, clothing and housing for the people, KCNA said.North Korea has not officially confirmed any COVID-19 cases, a claim questioned by Seoul officials.

But the reclusive country has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel restrictions.

COVAX, a global initiative for sharing COVID-19 vaccines with poor countries, has said it will provide nearly two million doses to North Korea but the shipment has been delayed amid protracted consultations.

According to Yonhap, the agenda of the leadership meeting, the third of its kind this year alone, also included the issue of “analysing the current international situation and our party’s corresponding direction”.

It did not mention the United States and South Korea by name.

The meeting has drawn attention amid expectations Pyongyang could also unveil its policy towards Washington and Seoul, after the new administration of US President Joe Biden completed its review of North Korea policy.

Talks between the US and North Korea have stalled for months over the issue of denuclearisation and the lifting of sanctions.

According to the KCNA, the meeting will continue but did not mention for how many days.