Pyongyang will chart its future at 7th congress

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Pyongyang will chart its future at 7th congress

North Korea is scheduled to kick off its ruling Workers’ Party’s congress on Friday, the first of its kind in 36 years, which is expected to help consolidate leader Kim Jong-un’s power while defining major policy guidelines.

Though North Korean state media previously announced the party’s seventh congress will start on Friday, it did not state how long it will run, although analysts expect it to last three to four days.

Through this congress, the young leader is expected to formalize his succession after the death of his father in December 2011 and initiate the Kim Jong-un era. New party central committee members, who appoint party leadership positions, will be elected, and a resolution that will serve as a political and economic guideline for the party is also expected to be adopted during the course of the next several days.

Over 3,000 delegates are expected to attend. The North’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported on Friday that, in anticipation of the major event, “The country is full of passion and joy.”

This meeting is considered the nation’s top political gathering. The last congress was held in October 1980 under North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, which formalized his son Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father, as his chosen successor.

The first party congress was held after Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule in August 1946. Following congresses were held in 1948, 1956, 1961, 1970 and 1980.

Analysts and government officials expect Kim Jong-un to give an opening address on Friday, followed by a business report by the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee. After debate on revisions to party rules, a resolution on major policy guidelines is expected to be adopted on Saturday.

On Sunday, there is expected to be an election of important positions, including for the Central Committee and Central Auditing Commission, after which the congress will close either that day or the following day.

The U.S. intelligence chief made a secret visit to Seoul on Wednesday amid signals that Pyongyang may conduct a fifth nuclear test around the time of its party congress, according to Korean government officials Thursday.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper met with defense, military and Blue House officials, including South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo. Clapper held closed-door talks with Han at the Defense Ministry headquarters in central Seoul on issues including the “security situation on the Korean Peninsula,” according to a government official, which could include the possibility of Pyongyang conducting another nuclear test.

Clapper also met with Gen. Vincent Brooks, the new commander of U.S. Forces Korea. This marks his first visit to Korea since May 2014, when Clapper held closed-door talks to discuss security issues with President Park Geun-hye and then Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin. Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a long-range missile launch one month later, resulting in the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions in March.

BY SARAH KIM, CHUN SU-JIN [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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