June 10, 2022
SEOUL – North Korea opened a key Workers’ Party meeting with its leader Kim Jong-un in attendance to discuss a “series of important issues,” its state-run media said Thursday, amid rampant speculation the country may conduct a nuclear test soon.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, Kim presided over the fifth enlarged plenary meeting of the party’s eighth Central Committee, which kicked off Wednesday.
“It began the agenda discussion amid high political enthusiasm of all the participants who are fully aware of their important duty in the historic struggle for prosperity and development of our great country and the people’s wellbeing,” the KCNA said.
The plenary session comes as South Korean and US intelligence authorities assess Pyongyang have completed preparations to conduct a nuclear test, and may carry out the test soon.
While the state media did not provide further details about the meeting including the topics and duration, the North Korean authorities are expected to discuss a wide range of state affairs, including the COVID-19 outbreak, its foreign policy toward the US and South Korea as well as its nuclear program.
Pyongyang has been seen to hold the Central Committee plenary session at least once a year, where it would decide on its key policy line and organizational reshuffling, among other issues.
This week’s session comes six months after the fourth one took place late in December, and is likely to continue for at least two days.
In the previous meeting, which lasted five days, the North Korean leader reiterated his commitment to bolster the country’s nuclear program.
Over the North’s report on the opening of the party meeting, South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed hopes that Pyongyang’s leadership would discuss ways to normalize relations with Seoul as well as denuclearization.
“We hope for the meeting to provide the opportunity (for North Korea’s authorities) to stabilize people’s livelihoods and to promote denuclearization and normalization of ties with South Korea,” a Unification Ministry official said.
The official also said the North Korean authorities would likely review their overall policies, and that the ministry is closely watching to see their future domestic and international policies.
Tension on the Korean Peninsula has been building as North Korea has continued to ratchet up its weapons demonstrations, including multiple test-firings of ballistic missiles. The Kim Jong-un regime has also launched multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles this year, as it set a record for missile launches in a year.
So far, Pyongyang has test-fired 31 ballistic missiles in 18 launches this year, marking its biggest figure of projectiles in a single year. The previous high mark was 25 in 2019.
As Pyongyang kicked off the key party meeting Wednesday, Seoul, the US and Japan announced their commitment to bolster cooperation to deter North Korea’s nuclear development.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori traveled to Seoul and held a trilateral meeting with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong to issue a joint statement.
The high-ranking officials of the three countries strongly condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches.