Secretive North Korea hails nuclear program as it opens party congress
PYONGYANG – ReutersNorth Korea opened the first congress of its ruling Workers’ Party in 36 years on May 6, with Kim Jong Un expected to further consolidate his control over a country that has grown increasingly isolated over its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Secretive North Korea trumpeted “miraculous results” ahead of the event and said advances in nuclear and ballistic missile developments, made in defiance of U.N. sanctions, were “the greatest gifts” for the rare party congress, but little of substance was revealed.
There was no word in Pyongyang from official sources about the proceedings other than that the meeting was under way. North Korean state media mentioned that congress would open on May 6 but did not carry details of proceedings as of early evening.
The congress opened on a rainy morning. Covers were hung over the giant portraits of Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and father, Kim Jong Il, that adorn Kim Il Sung square in the capital.
Foreign journalists invited to cover the event were not permitted inside the April 25 House of Culture, the stone structure draped in red party flags where the congress is expected to run for several days.
Foreign analysts expect the third-generation leader of the Kim dynasty to formally adopt his “Byongjin” policy of simultaneously pursuing nuclear weapons and economic development, and to further consolidate his power.
“Kim is after catching two rabbits, a nuclear arsenal and economic development, and he’s likely going to declare the country is a nuclear weapons state, so that’s one rabbit,” said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
“He might also lay out a five-year or seven-year blueprint for the development of the people’s economy,” Yang said.
Kim has aggressively pursued nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. In March, the U.N. Security Council adopted the latest in a series of resolutions toughening sanctions against North Korea, which conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test in January.
Giant neighbor China, the North’s lone major ally, backed the resolutions, growing frustrated over its nuclear tests.