"Kim Jong Un says North Korea facing its 'worst-ever situation'"
Kim Jong-un has warned North Korea is facing the "worst-ever situation" as he addressed thousands of grassroots members of his ruling party during a major political conference in Pyongyang.
The ruler’s comments come as North Korea’s coronavirus lockdown unleashing further shock on an economy devastated by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions over his nuclear weapons program.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Mr. Kim made the comments during an opening speech at a meeting of the Workers' Party's cell secretaries on Tuesday.
"Improving the people's living standards...even in the worst-ever situation in which we have to overcome unprecedentedly numerous challenges depends on the role played by the cells, the grassroots organisations of the party," he said.
North Korea’s economy has suffered from a year-long shutdown of its border with China, which is by far the country’s largest trading partner, amid shortages in food, electricity, and vital goods.
South Korean intelligence has said the North is producing about a million tons less in food grains than the annual demand of 5.5 million tons.
Mr. Kim urged members to carry out the decisions made at a party congress in January when he vowed to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of US pressure and announced a new five-year national development plan.
During Tuesday's speech, Mr. Kim also criticized the party's grassroots units for unspecified "shortcomings" that should be immediately corrected to ensure the "healthy and sustainable" development of the party.
arty cells, which consist of five to 30 members, are the smallest units of party authority that oversee the works and lives at factories and other places. The network is an important tool for the Workers' Party to perpetuate its power. The previous conference of cell secretaries was held in 2017.
The economic setbacks have left Mr. Kim with nothing to show for his ambitious diplomacy with former President Donald Trump, which collapsed over disagreements in lifting sanctions for the North's denuclearisation steps.
The North has so far rejected the Biden administration's overture for talks, saying that Washington must discard its "hostile" policies first, and dialled up the pressure by resuming tests of ballistic missiles last month after a year-long pause.