(ATF) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on February 11 denounced his cabinet for a lack of innovation and "smart strategies" as the country's economic woes worsened amid plunging trade with China, its most important economic partner.
The ruling Workers' Party wrapped up its four-day plenary meeting, during which Kim stressed revival of the economy as top item on their agenda, while reviewing action plans for a new five-year strategy.
He accused the cabinet of drafting plans that did not advance significantly on previous ones and that had "failed tremendously" as the economy reeled from international sanctions, a prolonged border closure with China and reduced outside aid amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said: "The plans did not accurately reflect the party's ideology and guidelines and lacked innovative insights and smart strategies."
"As the cabinet almost mechanically put together numbers given by ministries, plans for some sectors were unrealistically elevated and others had lowered goals that were already easily achievable and must be done."
Kim also called for enhanced self-reliance with more local production of goods and materials, KCNA said, after trade with China – which accounts for about 90% of shipments into and out of North Korea – plunged more than 80% last year.
North Korea's total trade volume with China stood at US$539 million last year, down 80.7% from a year earlier, according to China Customs data. Imports from China dropped 80.9% year-on-year to $491 million in 2020, while exports to its giant neighbour totalled just $48 million, 77.7 % down from a year earlier, the data showed.
The sharp decline is attributable to tightened border controls put in place to ward off a Covid-19 outbreak on its soil. North Korea has claimed to be coronavirus-free, but it has implemented relatively swift and extensive antivirus efforts since early last year, including restricting movement of people and goods between the two countries.
The North Korean economy's dire straits was this week underscored by the revelation that Pyongyang launched dozens of cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges and companies to obtain foreign currencies, according to a draft report by a UN expert panel.
In a separate development, North Korean foreign minster Ri Son-gwon has been elected a member of the party's powerful politburo, state media reported on February 12. Ri was chosen during a four-day plenary meeting of the central committee that wrapped up on Thursday, according to KCNA.