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North Korea building up weapons amid economic shortfall, Seoul says

South Korea's military raised concerns about North Korea's new missiles and conventional weapons on Wednesday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
South Korea's military raised concerns about North Korea's new missiles and conventional weapons on Wednesday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- North Korea is struggling economically but continues to build up its military ahead of Pyongyang's Eighth Party Congress in January, according to Seoul.

South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook said Wednesday at a year-end meeting of military commanders the Kim Jong-un regime is pushing forward with state goals that must be met before the Party Congress, as it nears the final stages of its "80-day battle" or productivity campaign, Newsis reported.

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Suh said the North displayed at the Oct. 10 anniversary parade "new missiles and conventional weapons on a large scale." Pyongyang "continues to increase military power," the minister said, according to the report.

Seoul's military chief called for "mental preparedness" in the South, including the strengthening of education and training in the army. But Suh also said commanders should continue to support the "peace process" and the implementation of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement, signed on Sept. 19, 2018, in Pyongyang.

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South Korean claims of economic hardship in the North are being refuted among supporters of the North Korean regime. Pyongyang sealed its borders in January in response to COVID-19 and trade has decline significantly with China, its biggest trading partner.

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Choson Sinbo, the pro-Pyongyang newspaper of the Japan-based General Association of Korean Residents, said Wednesday claims about a collapse of the North Korean economy are a "bare-faced lie."

Sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters have not destroyed the North, the newspaper claimed.

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"All is accomplished using domestic [North Korean] resources and technology," the Choson Sinbo said. "As blood flows throughout the body, the North Korean currency is in circulation, over and over again."

The paper also said Pyongyang has achieved goals outlined in a five-year plan, such as completions of units at the Sangwon Cement Complex.

The plant was built in partnership with French cement company Lafarge SA, according to Daily NK.

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