North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a meeting of the politburo of the country’s ruling Workers Party, where he discussed the development of the economy, and particularly the chemical industry, but did not address cross-border relations with South Korea.

The two-day meeting comes as the global COVID-19 pandemic places additional pressure on North Korea’s economy, already battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear programme.

The meeting discussed “crucial issues arising in further developing the self-sufficient economy of the country and improving the standard of people’s living”.

The 13th political bureau meeting repeatedly stressed that the chemical industry was “a major thrust front of the national economy”, it said.

“He stressed the need to give top priority to increasing the capacity for producing fertiliser,”.

After weeks of intense speculation about his health, Kim attended the opening of a fertiliser plant on May 1.

The meeting also emphasised the construction of residential houses as a way to improve North Koreans’ standard of living.

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