The North Korean regime vowed to increase its epidemic prevention and national defense capability budget, despite “complicated problems” caused by what it called “hostile forces’ persistent sanctions” and the coronavirus pandemic, state media said on Tuesday.
The state budget was presented at a two-day meeting of the regime’s top political body, which began on Sunday, according to state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). North Korean head of the communist regime Kim Jong-un was not present at the meeting.
According to the regime’s mouthpiece, the rubber-stamp legislature passed plans to increase the budget for emergency epidemic prevention by 33.3 percent compared to last year.
Kim Tok Hun, North Korea’s premier—who is in charge of the economy—said in the meeting that emergency epidemic prevention would be given top priority.
North Korea has closed its borders and imposed severe travel bans despite the regime not confirming any COVID-19 cases.
The head of the regime had ordered officials to strengthen military capacities and develop “high-tech weapons” while prioritizing anti-pandemic emergency campaigns, emphasizing that incompetence and loopholes would not be tolerated.
KCNA claimed that the regime spent 15.9 percent of the national budget last year on its nuclear weapons program, the same amount that would be used for the national defense budget this year.
“Last year, the economic construction field faced more difficult and complicated problems than expected due to the hostile forces’ persistent sanctions and worldwide health crisis,” KCNA quoted Kim saying.
According to South Korean estimates, North Korea’s trade with China, its biggest trading partner, and an economic pipeline, shrank by about 80 percent in 2020 before it plunged again by two-thirds in the first nine months of last year.
North Korea’s economy has suffered major setbacks in the past two years due to pandemic-caused border shutdowns, persistent U.N. sanctions, and the fallout from natural disasters.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on six North Koreans for procuring goods from Russia and China for North Korea’s weapons programs, an action that follows a series of North Korean missile launches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times