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North Korea opens key party meeting


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – With leader Kim Jong-un in attendance, North Korea opened a key political conference to discuss improving its struggling economy and reviewing defence strategies in the face of growing tensions with rivals, according to state media reports on Saturday.

The enlarged plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee came as the United States (US) sent a nuclear-powered submarine to South Korea in the allies’ latest show of force against the North, which has ramped up its testing of nuclear-capable missiles to a record pace in recent months.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on stage, attends an enlarged plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee at the party’s headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea. PHOTO: KCNA / AP

During the first day of meetings on Friday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said, party officials reviewed the country’s economic campaigns for the first half of 2023, and discussed foreign policy and defence strategies to “cope with the changed international situation”.

The agency didn’t specify what was discussed or mention any comments made by Kim. It said the meeting will continue for at least another day. The arrival on Friday of the USS Michigan in the South Korean port of Busan came a day after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern seas in response to US-South Korean live-fire drills that took place near the inter-Korean border this week.

With the deployment of the USS Michigan, the US and South Korean navies are planning to conduct exercises focussed on sharpening their special operation and joint combat capabilities in the allies’ latest combined training to cope with growing North Korean threats.

Pyongyang has condemned the allies’ combined exercises as invasion rehearsals. North Korea has used the expanding US-South Korean drills as a pretext to ramp up its own weapons demonstrations, including test-firing around 100 missiles since the start of 2022.