SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised to expand diplomatic relations and explore ways to resume inter-Korean ties, he was speaking at the rare party congress hosted by him.
On its third day Kim spoke about rearranging North Koreas affairs with the South “as required by the prevailing situation and the changed times” and discussed foreign policy, reported the state media. Inter-Korean relations made some headway around 2018 summits but have soured as the nuclear talks stalled.
He “declared the general orientation and the policy stand of our party for comprehensively expanding and developing the external relations,” KCNA said.
The eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party came amid a prolonged gridlock in negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for U.S. sanction relief.
After US president-elect takes office in two weeks, he will be tasked with engineering a breakthrough in the standoff, after a second summit between Kim and outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 did not reach an agreement.
Despite a self-imposed suspension on nuclear and ICBM testing in 2018, North Korea unveiling what was deemed its largest ICBM yet at a parade in October.
Kim on Wednesday vowed to boost military capabilities to a “much higher level.” He also discussed ways to open “a fresh golden age” in its campaign for socialist culture. Pyongyang introduced a new law last month, which allows intensified crackdown on outside information that could instigate “reactionary thought.”
Kim called for “establishing our own wholesome and revolutionary lifestyle in all spheres of social life and thoroughly eliminating non-socialist elements,” state media KCNA reported.
An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry said it was the first time North Korea used the phrase “South Korea affairs,” which it would usually refer to by “North-South relations,” and the government is closely monitoring developments.
The gathering is aimed at reviewing the party’s work since its last meeting in 2016 and outlining a new five-year economic plan along with diplomatic and military blueprints.
Kim is expected to give a public message unveiling his new plans once the meeting is over. It lasted four days in 2016, but the longest congress was in 1970 which took 12 days.
The congress will continue on Friday, when the young leader’s birthday will be celebrated by the whole country, complete with a military parade and other events.