North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a fertilizer factory under construction in his first "field guidance" of 2020, state media said Tuesday, in an apparent move to highlight his drive for a "self-reliant" economy to overcome global sanctions.
The visit to the "Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory" under construction north of Pyongyang came five days after state media reported that Kim paid his respects at the mausoleum of his late grandfather and father to mark the new year.
It also came amid speculation that Kim might refrain from public activity after a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone attack last week over concern that he could also be a target of such an attack.
"He said he came to the construction site as the first leg of his field guidance in the New Year with a view to stressing once again that the construction... is one of the projects the party is paying primary attention to among the economic tasks to be carried out in the year 2020," the Korean Central News Agency said in an English-language report.
"To automate all the elements and processes of a modern phosphatic fertilizer factory under construction and to build it into a labor-saving industry should be chosen as an intentional goal," he was also quoted as saying.
Kim's choice of the construction site as the destination for his first field trip this year appears intended to highlight his commitment on developing a "self-reliant" economy in a fight against global sanctions.
North Korea has claimed that it recorded a bumper harvest last year despite unfavorable weather conditions, but a lack of fertilizer amid global sanctions has been cited as a major challenge in increasing agricultural production.
Kim's public activity came days after he threatened a key party meeting last month that he has no reason to be bound by a self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, adding that the world will witness a "new strategic weapon" in the near future.
He also urged efforts to build a "self-reliant" economy and "drastically" increase agricultural production apparently in preparation for what will be a protracted struggle against sanctions amid scant progress in denuclearization negotiations with the United States. (Yonhap)