North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for a major political conference before year’s end, where he’s expected to address his increasingly tense relations with Washington and Seoul over the expansion of his nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea’s state media said Thursday that Kim presided over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Politburo in which members reviewed the implementation of state policies in 2022 and decided to hold a larger plenary session of the party’s Central Committee at an unspecified time in late December.
Kim, in recent years, has used political conferences in late December or early January to review state affairs and reveal his most important goals in economic and foreign policy and arms development. Those meetings may be replacing the function of Kim’s New Year’s Day speeches, which he has skipped since 2020 after using them for years to issue major announcements
During Wednesday’s meeting in capital, Pyongyang, Kim insisted that the country this year overcame “unprecedented adversity” in both internal and external circumstances to achieve progress in national development and elevate the country’s “prestige and honour,” the Korean Central News Agency said
North Korea has ramped up missile testing to a record pace this year, exploiting a divide in the United Nations Security Council worsened by Russia’s war on Ukraine to speed up weapons development and dial up pressure on Washington and Seoul.
But Kim has also been struggling to improve a dysfunctional and heavily sanctioned economy made worse by pandemic border closures in recent years, an issue he may also address during the year-end meeting.
State media reports of Kim’s comments during Wednesday’s Politburo meeting did not include specific details of what would be discussed in the party plenary. They also did not mention any critical remarks toward Washington or Seoul.
The KCNA said Kim described 2023 as a crucial year for accomplishing the goals set under a five-year plan established during a ruling party congress in January 2021, where he vowed to revamp his economy and bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S.-led sanctions and pressure. During that congress, Kim issued a long wish list of sophisticated weaponry, including more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons, nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites and tactical nuclear arms
Noting that 2023 is a “historic year” — marking the 75th anniversary of North Korea’s founding and the 70th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War — Kim said a “decisive guarantee for the fulfilment of the five-year plan” should be laid out for the coming year, according to the KCNA.