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North Korea's Kim pushes economic plan with fisheries visit as officials berate United States

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By Reuters
North Korea's Kim pushes economic plan with fisheries visit as officials berate United States
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a fishery station of the Korean People's Army in North Korea, in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 18, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS   -   Copyright  KCNA(Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean state media published detailed reports on Tuesday of a visit by leader Kim Jong Un to two fisheries, underscoring his drive to build economic independence as negotiations with the United States to lift punishing sanctions soured.

Kim has been increasingly driving “self-reliant” development as the centrepiece of a five-year economic strategy begun in 2016.

His visit to the fish processing plants was splashed across a two-page spread in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun, less than a day after senior officials blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for the failure to continue meaningful dialogue between the two countries over North Korean denuclearisation.

One official said that Washington “should not dream of negotiation for denuclearisation before dropping its hostile policy” – an apparent reference to U.S. military drills with South Korea and punishing sanctions.

The Rodong Sinmun’s online report included 25 photos of Kim touring fish pens, looking at blocks of frozen fish, talking to workers, and smiling amid what appeared to be large refrigerators.

According to Rodong Sinmun and the official KCNA news agency, Kim criticised army officials for letting the construction of a fish processing line lapse, praised the manager of one of the plants for loyal ambition, and invited some of the people there to Pyongyang.

“We’re now fighting for a breakthrough in improving the lives of the people,” Kim said according to KCNA.

North Korea has been demanding a lifting of sanctions hobbling its economy. Kim has set a year-end deadline for Washington to show more flexibility in denuclearisation talks, which have stalled despite three meetings between the two leaders since June last year.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; editing by Jane Wardell)