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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's Kim calls for 'military countermeasures'

Party meeting extended as experts eye changes to nuclear strategy

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the Workers' Party of Korea plenary meeting in this undated photo released on Dec. 30 by KCNA.   © Reuters

SEOUL (AP) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for active "diplomatic and military countermeasures" to preserve the country's security in a lengthy speech at a key political conference possibly meant to legitimize major changes to his nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

Kim spoke for seven hours during the ruling Workers' Party meeting that continued for the third day on Monday. He issued national goals for rebuilding the North's economy and preparing active and "offensive political, diplomatic and military countermeasures for firmly preserving the sovereignty and security of the country," according to state media on Tuesday.

The Korean Central News Agency said the plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee will extend to the fourth day on Tuesday, a day before Kim is expected to use his annual New Year's address to announce major changes to his economic and security policies.

Some experts believe Kim could use the speech to declare he is suspending his nuclear negotiations with Washington, which have stalemated over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament, and he could possibly revive confrontation by lifting a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

KCNA did not report any decisions made at the party meeting or mention any specific comment by Kim toward the United States.

In his New Year's speech to begin 2019, Kim said his country would pursue an unspecified "new path" if the administration of President Donald Trump persists with sanctions and pressure on North Korea.

The Workers' Party of Korea meeting, seen in this undated photo released on Dec. 29 by KCNA, has been extended ahead of an expected New Year's speech by Kim.   © Reuters

Negotiations faltered following the collapse of his second summit with Trump in February, where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantling of an aging nuclear facility in Yongbyon, which would only represent a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

The North said earlier this month it conducted two "crucial" tests at its long-range rocket launch facility, raising speculation it has been developing a new long-range missile or preparing a satellite launch.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration still believes it "can find a path forward to convince the leadership in North Korea that their best course of action is to create a better opportunity for their people by getting rid of their nuclear weapons."

"We're watching what they're doing here in the closing days of this year, and we hope that they'll make a decision that will lead to a path of peace and not one towards confrontation," Pompeo said in an interview Monday morning with "Fox and Friends."

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