SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hosted a military meeting to discuss new policies to bolster the country's nuclear capabilities amid stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States, state media KCNA said on Sunday (May 24).
The meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's powerful Central Military Commission marked Kim's first public appearance in three weeks. He made an unusually small number of outings in the past two months amid coronavirus concerns.
North Korea has imposed strict anti-coronavirus measures although it says it has no confirmed cases. This follows intense speculation about Kim's health last month after he missed a key anniversary.
US-led negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes have made little progress since late last year, especially after a global battle on the coronavirus began.
The meeting discussed measures to bolster armed forces and "reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces," KCNA said.
"Set forth at the meeting were new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country and putting the strategic armed forces on a high alert operation," it said.
"Taken at the meeting were crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces."
The date of the meeting was not given, but a separate KCNA dispatch from the same meeting reported a military order signed by Kim was issued on May 23.
News of the nuclear discussions came after a report Friday in The Washington Post said that the Trump administration had discussed holding the first US nuclear test since 1992 as a potential warning to Russia and China.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the US-based Arms Control Association, told the paper that such a decision would likely "disrupt" negotiations with Kim, "who may no longer feel compelled to honour his moratorium on nuclear testing".
Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington over the North's nuclear arsenal remain at a standstill despite three high-profile meetings between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
Pyongyang has carried out a series of weapons tests in recent months -- often describing them as multiple launch rocket systems, although Japan and the US have called them ballistic missiles.
The North is subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.
The Chinese government's top diplomat, Wang Yi, expressed hope that the United States and North Korea could resume meaningful dialogue as soon as possible.
"We hope that all parties, including the United States, would seriously consider it, and not squander away the hard-earned results of (previous) engagement," Wang told a media briefing in Beijing.