North Korea stages once-in-a-generation party congress; Kim Jong-un praises nuclear tests
North Korea kicked off its first ruling party congress for nearly 40 years today, with state media lauding the isolated country's "prestige" as a nuclear power while maintaining a news blackout on the event itself.
Pyongyang: North Korea kicked off its first ruling party congress for nearly 40 years today, with state media lauding the isolated country's "prestige" as a nuclear power while maintaining a news blackout on the event itself.
The congress drew thousands of selected delegates from across the country to Pyongyang for what, in theory at least, was a gathering of North Korea's top decision-making body.
It also drew around 130 foreign journalists who were invited to cover the event but not allowed inside the venue, restricted instead to watching from a spot 200 metres (yards) away in the light drizzle falling on the capital.
And state television provided no live coverage, devoting its programming to archive material, films and patriotic concerts.
The top story on the main TV evening news at 8:00pm (1130 GMT) was about a special award given to a well-known patriotic song.
The 33-year-old Kim, who was not even born when the last Workers' Party Congress was held in 1980, was believed to have opened the conclave with a keynote address which, when published, will be scrutinised for any sign of a substantive policy shift, especially on the economic front.
Analysts will also be watching for personnel changes as Kim looks to bring in a younger generation of leaders hand-picked for their loyalty.
State media previewed the event by hailing the North's most recent nuclear test in January as evidence of its "greatness and prestige as a nuclear power state."
And the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea slammed the international community's opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.
"Regardless of whether someone recognises it or not, our status as a nuclear state that is armed with H-bombs cannot change," the committee said in a statement.
There has been widespread speculation about the North preparing another nuclear test to coincide with the congress, as a defiant gesture of strength and future intent.
The 1980 event was staged to crown Kim's father Kim Jong-Il as heir apparent to his own father, the North's founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
The 2016 version was being held inside the imposing April 25 Palace, whose stone facade was adorned with huge portraits of the two late leaders, along with giant red and gold ruling party banners.
While the agenda -- and even the duration -- of the congress remains unknown, its main objective is clearly to confirm Kim Jong-Un's status as legitimate inheritor of the Kim family's dynastic rule which spans almost seven decades.
It may also enshrine as formal party doctrine Kim's "byungjin" policy of pursuing nuclear weapons in tandem with economic development.