- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

North Korea indicated Wednesday that it is shifting its strategy to focus on its own independent economic development, with a key state propaganda newspaper in Pyongyang calling the pursuit of support from outside nations a “stupid idea.”

A commentary in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper emphasized “self-reliance” above all else — a message apparently meant to counter the Trump administration’s ongoing attempt to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to view potential U.S. and other international investment as an incentive to abandon his nuclear weapons.

“Securing a power country status and demonstrating an independent dignity come from a march toward reuniting the public and laying the economic and military groundwork on its own solidly and earnestly,” the commentary said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

“Cooperation based on interests of countries can bring about a temporary prosperity and change but it cannot guarantee an existence of a country,” it said, adding that self-reliance and independence are the “only way” for the North and that it is a “stupid idea” to strengthen national power by depending on outside support.

Rodong Sinmun is widely viewed by North Korea analysts to be a vehicle through which the Kim regime announces internal policy shifts. It was not immediately clear whether Wednesday’s editorial was an indication of the “new path” that the North Korean leader had vowed to take in 2020 if the U.S. did not soften its demands for swift denuclearization by Pyongyang.

U.S.-North Korea denuclearization talks have been stalled since the breakdown of the February 2019 Hanoi summit between President Trump and Mr. Kim. Mr. Trump walked away from the summit, saying the North Koreans had demanded sweeping sanctions relief in exchange for only a limited commitment to destroy part of their nuclear arsenal.

The president has said he remains open to another summit and has repeatedly pushed a message since Hanoi that North Korea could receive massive foreign investment, including from the U.S., if the Kim regime gives up its nuclear weapons completely.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency suggested Wednesday’s Rodong Sinmun commentary was an indication that Pyongyang is instead bracing for a protracted fight against crippling international sanctions led by the United States.

A similar view was promoted by North Korea experts in Seoul during recent interviews with The Washington Times.

Kim In-tea, a former North Korean official who defected a decade ago to South Korea, said the Kim regime appears most focused at the moment on an internal reshuffling in preparation for “a long-term stall in negotiations” with Washington.

Mr. Kim, an analyst with the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, told The Times that “about 30% of 230 high-level cadres inside the North Korean government have been reshuffled.” He added that the moves mainly involve officials tasked with managing domestic affairs.

The regime in Pyongyang, he said, “is preparing to go through the current difficulties it is facing.”

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