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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's ruling party decides to hold congress every 5 years

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo supplied by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on Jan. 10.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- North Korea's ruling party will hold its congress every five years from now onward, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday.

Until now, Workers' Party of Korea congresses have taken place at random intervals but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently expressed his willingness to convene it on a regular schedule.

On the fifth day of the latest congress, meanwhile, the party revised its rules to clarify that "powerful defense capabilities" would "safeguard the stability and peaceful environment" of the Korean Peninsula, according to KCNA.

The Workers' Party of Korea opened its first congress in nearly five years on Tuesday. The previous party congress, the first in 36 years, was held for four days from May 6, 2016.

The state-run news agency added that the congress will continue in session, although it did not elaborate on when the gathering will conclude.

During the ongoing congress, Kim displayed a confrontational attitude toward the United States ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, describing Washington as Pyongyang's "foremost principal enemy.

Kim also pledged to further strengthen the country's nuclear arsenal, while saying he expects the United States to maintain its hard-line stance against North Korea, whoever is president.

At home, North Korea's economy has become increasingly stagnated after cutting off traffic to and from neighboring China and Russia since early last year to prevent the novel coronavirus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, from entering the nation.

On the first day of the congress, Kim acknowledged that the ruling party failed to achieve the economic development goals set in its strategy through 2020 in almost all sectors.

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