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(LEAD) N.K. leader vows to promote peace by strengthening defense

All News 07:14 January 07, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more info, background from 4th para; CHANGES photo)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to strengthen the country's national defense to protect a "peaceful environment" for the people, state media reported Thursday.

Kim made the remark as he reported to the second-day session of the ruling Workers' Party's eighth congress held in Pyongyang on Wednesday, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

He "clarified an important will to reliably protect the security of the country and people and the peaceful environment of the socialist construction by placing the state defense capabilities on a much higher level," the KCNA said.

North Korea launched the rare party congress, the first in nearly five years, on Tuesday amid expectations Pyongyang will unveil its policy directions on the economy and foreign affairs in the face of stalled denuclearization negotiations.

At the opening session, Kim admitted a failure to meet the country's previous development goals and emphasized self-reliance in overcoming multitudes of challenges facing his country.

In Wednesday's report, the North Korean leader analyzed the country's economic situation in various sectors and presented "the goals and practical ways for making innovations and development in the relevant fields during a new five-year plan."

The sectors under review included the transportation, construction, communications and commerce industries as well as external economic relations. But there was no mention of the U.S. and South Korea.

A third-day session of the congress was to be held on Thursday, according to the KCNA.

It is still unclear for how many days the congress will be held as the North has not made public the exact schedule. The previous congress was held for four days.

This week's event comes as North Korea has been faced with a triple whammy of the fallout of back-to-back typhoons in the summer, a protracted border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic and global sanctions on its economy.

The session has drawn keen attention from the outside world to gauge the North's new foreign policy line ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20 as it has stayed mum on Biden's victory as of now.

During the previous congress, held in 2016 for the first time in more than 30 years, the North announced its five-year development plan that ended last year and declared the "byongjin" policy of simultaneously seeking nuclear weapons and economic advance.

Kim has held three meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump, but denuclearization talks have made little progress since their no-deal summit in Hanoi in 2019.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un receives a standing ovation from participants at the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang on Jan. 5, 2021, in this image captured from the North's state TV the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)(Yonhap)


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