North Korea kicks off key party meeting ahead of new year

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North Korea has opened a year-end ruling party meeting attended by leader Kim Jong Un, state media said Wednesday, with key policy decisions for 2024 expected to be unveiled.

Abandoning a once-traditional New Year’s Day speech, Kim has in recent years used the Workers’ Party of Korea’s plenary meeting as a platform to outline policies in areas such as security, diplomacy and the economy.

This year’s meeting caps off a year in which Pyongyang successfully launched a reconnaissance satellite, enshrined its status as a nuclear power in its constitution and test-fired its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kim defined 2023 as a “year of great turn and great change” as well as one of “great importance”, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Pyongyang saw “eye-opening victories and events achieved in all fields for socialist construction and the strengthening of the national power,” Kim said, according to KCNA.

He also said that Pyongyang’s new strategic weapons, including its spy satellite, had “unswervingly put” the North “on the position of a military power”.

The meeting will involve six primary points of discussion, KCNA said, including a review of how North Korea’s national policies were implemented during the year as well as a look ahead to the national budget and “direction of struggle” for 2024.

Kim last week said Pyongyang would not hesitate to launch a nuclear attack if “provoked” with nukes.

The North last week tested its solid-fuel Hwasong-18, its most advanced ICBM, for the third time in 2023.

Pyongyang’s launch last month of a military spy satellite, which it claimed quickly began providing images of US and South Korean military sites, further damaged ties with South Korea.

The launch fractured a military agreement between the Koreas established to de-escalate tensions on the peninsula, with both sides then ramping up security along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates them.

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