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Kim Jong-un pledges to expand North Korea's nuclear arsenal

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fourth day of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers&apos Party in Pyongyang on Jan. 8 2021 in this

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal and develop more sophisticated atomic weapons systems, saying the fate of relations with the United States depends on whether it abandons its hostile policy, state media reported Saturday.

Kim's comments during a key meeting of the ruling party this week were seen as applying pressure on the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has called Kim a "thug" and has criticized his summits with President Donald Trump.

The North Korean leader also said the 'key to establishing new relations between (North Korea) and the United States is whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy'.

"No matter who is in power in the USA, the true nature of the US and its fundamental policies towards North Korea never change", Kim said, vowing to expand ties with "anti-imperialist, independent forces".

In his latest address to the Workers' Party - only the eighth congress in its history - Mr Kim said Pyongyang did not intend to use its nuclear weapons unless "hostile forces" were planning to use them against North Korea first.

"Nothing would be more foolish and risky than not strengthening our might tirelessly and having an easygoing attitude at a time when we clearly see the enemy's state-of-the-art weapons are being increased more than ever", Kim said.

Some foreign experts say Kim from the beginning hadn't any intention of fully relinquishing his bomb program and only attempted to use diplomacy with Trump as a way to weaken the sanctions and buy time to ideal his nuclear program.

Despite the bonhomie Kim showed in three meetings with Trump, the North Korean leader repeatedly rejected the Trump administration's call for a "complete, verifiable and irreversible" nuclear dismantlement before Pyongyang could receive any rewards.

Other military projects ordered by Kim include the development of tactical nuclear weapons, ground or submarine-launched solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the introduction of hypersonic aircraft and a military surveillance satellite.

The declaration comes less than two weeks ahead of the new United States president's inauguration and after a tumultuous relationship between Kim and outgoing leader Donald Trump.

Ties between the Koreas once flourished after Kim entered talks with Trump.

Kim Jong-un pledges to expand North Korea's nuclear arsenal

"The reality is that we can achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula when we constantly build up our national defence and suppress U.S. military threats".

Washington has yet to respond to the North's announcement.

On its third day on Thursday, Kim raised the issue of reshaping South Korean relations "as required by the prevailing situation and the changed times" and discussed foreign policy, the official KCNA news agency reported, without elaborating.

"The report made a stern warning that we will have no choice but to treat the South differently if it continues to push us to the corner citing 'provocations, '" it said.

Inter-Korean relations made some headway around 2018 summits but have soured as the nuclear talks stalled.

It's unclear if North Korea is capable of developing such systems.

During his opening-day speech, Kim called the difficulties the "worst-ever" and "unprecedented".

North Korea will focus its investment in the metal and chemical industries, among others, while strengthening the technological base for the agricultural sector, it said. He also admitted his previous economic plans had failed and vowed to adopt a new five-year development plan.

Observers had expected Kim to use the first congress of the ruling Workers' Party in five years to send conciliatory gestures toward Seoul and Washington as he faces deepening economic troubles at home.

This week's congress, the first in almost five years, came as North Korea has been faced with a triple whammy of the fallout of back-to-back typhoons in the summer, a protracted border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic and global sanctions on its economy.

It lasted four days in 2016, but the longest congress was in 1970 which took 12 days.