Nuclear Tests, Economic Development, Friendly Relations Discussed in North Korea’s Historic Party Congress

north korea party congress
Foreign reporters were not allowed to cover the proceedings or meet any of the delegates

Thousands of senior delegates packed into Pyongyang’s House of Culture for the first congress of North Korea’s Workers’ Party in 36 years. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un opened the rare party congress by praising his country’s nuclear achievements. Appearing before the delegates, he said: “Unprecedented results have been accomplished.”

“The Imperialists,” he said, by which he means chiefly America, have been “smashed.” He also remarked that North Korea’s recent hydrogen bomb explosion was “thrilling.” The country is safe with him and with nuclear weapons, he added.

On Sunday, Kim Jong Un delivered a three-hour speech to delegates to review the country’s situation and progress since the last congress was held in 1980. His speech was printed in its entirety in the state run Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

In his speech, Jong un said North Korea was a responsible nuclear state and would not use its nuclear weapons first unless its sovereignty was threatened. But he made clear that the North has no intention of unilaterally giving up its nuclear program or bending to international pressure and would keep on testing its nuclear arsenal.

“We will consistently take hold on the strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force and boost self-defensive nuclear force both in quality and quantity as long as the imperialists persist in their nuclear threat and arbitrary practices,” KCNA said.

Kim’s focus has been on his Byongjin policy of jointly pushing forward economic development and nuclear armament, on building up the military while trying to kick-start the North’s economy, which has seen some growth in recent years but has been affected by sanctions.

On South Korea, Kim Jong Un called for more talks with its cross border rival to reduce misunderstanding and distrust between them.

“But if the South Korean authorities opt for a war, persisting in the unreasonable ‘unification of social systems’, we will turn out in the just war to mercilessly wipe out the anti-reunification forces and achieve the historic cause of national reunification, long-cherished desire of all Koreans,” he said.

Kim Jung also said the North is willing to develop friendly relations even with countries that had in the past been hostile toward it – a possible overture to the United States. However, he urged the U.S. to stay away from inter-Korean issues, according to KCNA.

In his speech, Kim announced a five-year economic plan, to improve North Korea’s electricity supply and develop domestic sources of energy. The congress adopted a resolution to strive toward a more prosperous and modern economy.

“(We must) solve the energy problem and place the basic industry section on the right track, and increase agricultural and light industry production to definitely improve lives of the people,” Kim said in the speech. At the end of speech, delegates rose to their feet, applauded and shouted ‘manse!’, or ‘cheers for long life!’

More than 100 foreign journalists are in the capital for North Korea’s first party congress but they have not been allowed to actually cover the proceedings or meet any of the 3,400 delegates. They’ve had to depend on reports from state media, which reports event hours later or even the next day.

Meanwhile, North Korea reportedly detained BBC journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and ordered his expulsion over his reporting, for ‘insulting the dignity’ of the country.

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