Pyongyang kicks off rare political event in 36 years

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North Korea has kicked off the first congress of its ruling party in 36 years, in a move believed to be aimed at getting approval for leader Kim Jong-un’s ideology of developing the economy and nuclear weapons.

The 7th congress of the Workers’ Party kicked off in Pyongyang on Friday, with nearly 3,000 party members attending the rare political gathering.

Speaking ahead of the event, Kim said it will “lay out the brilliant blueprint that will advance the final victory of our revolution.”

It is believed that Kim is seeking to obtain formal approval for his new ideology, “Byongjin,” which will replace the “Songun,” or “military first,” policy of his late father, Kim Jong-il, whom the young leader succeeded in 2011.

Byongjin is the policy of simultaneously developing the economy and nuclear weapons.

Foreign journalists were present to cover the congress, but were not allowed inside the April 25 Palace, where the congress is held.

The congress will likely last four to five days. The last such meeting was held in 1980, when the country’s founder and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, was still in power.

The young Kim is reportedly scheduled to make a speech at the gathering about the country’s nuclear capabilities. He is expected to announce that Pyongyang will continue with its controversial nuclear tests.

Pyongyang declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and carried out four nuclear weapons tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016.

In March, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the toughest sanctions on North Korea in two decades over its missile and nuclear tests.

South Korea, the North’s immediate neighbor and traditional adversary, is concerned about the nuclear and missile activities of Pyongyang.

Relations between North and South Korea have been turbulent for years. Seoul and Pyongyang fought a war in the early 1950s, and have been at odds ever since.

Tensions have escalated further recently over joint military exercises by Washington and Seoul.

North Korea accuses the US of plotting with its regional allies to topple the government in Pyongyang. The country describes its nuclear capabilities as a deterrent against hostile US policies.

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