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October 10 was supposed to be a major celebration for Kim Jong Un

October 9, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Kim Jong Un holds a political bureau meeting

This Saturday marks 75 years since the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea -- the communist political party that has ruled North Korea since the country's inception.

North Korea would become a "highly civilized socialist country" whose people would enjoy the "conditions and environment for leading a wealthy and a highly civilized life to their heart's content," Kim said.

At the time, North Korea was one of the world's poorest countries, and an international pariah restrained by economic sanctions for its dogged pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

It would have been a golden propaganda opportunity to portray Kim as one of the most important leaders and freedom fighters in Korean history, or at least North Korea's version of it.

Two years after taking power in 2012, Kim announced North Korea would be guided a new national strategy of developing the country's nuclear weapons program while simultaneously working to jump start the economy.

In his annual New Year's Day address in 2018, a speech akin to a US President's State of the Union, Kim said that North Korea had completed its effort to develop viable nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and thanked his people for paying the price.

The hope was that these measures would choke North Korea's economy to the point that it would force Kim to the negotiating table.

By that point, the young North Korean leader had arguably completed an advanced nuclear weapons program; repaired relations with longtime ally China; and held a meeting with a sitting US president, a propaganda victory his father and his grandfather -- the man who founded North Korea -- had only dreamed of.

Kim came to Hanoi ready to make a deal to shut down Yongbyon, the biggest and best-known facility in North Korea that produced fissile material for nuclear weapons, in exchange for sanctions relief, according to Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton.

North Korea has long looked at leaders like Moammar Gadhafi of Libya -- who gave up his incipient nuclear weapons program in exchange for financial relief, only to be overthrown by US-backed forces years later -- as cautionary tales.

Kim repeatedly pushed a deal along the lines of Yongbyon-for-sanctions relief, but he was not keen to negotiate away ballistic missiles or North Korea's secret nuclear sites, according to Bolton's recently published memoir.

So Pyongyang resumed weapons testing, though not the long-range ballistic missiles that could reach the United States, and Kim gave the US something of an ultimatum: come up with some new ideas by the end of the year, or else.

Kim may not be able to celebrate economic glory on October 10, but experts predict he will use the opportunity to give the world a glimpse of some of North Korea's newest advanced weaponry -- perhaps the mysterious "strategic weapon" he teased at the start of the year.

Within North Korea, a show of military strength will serve as a timely distraction from the pandemic, the economy and Kim's failed five-year plan.

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