North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has attended the opening of a key party meeting to decide his country’s diplomatic and defence strategy amid a “changed international situation”, according to state media.
Kim joined the eight enlarged plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which opened on Friday, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Saturday.
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The meeting, which will likely be held over several days, will discuss “the issue of the state diplomatic and defence strategy to cope with the changed international situation”, as well as review economic activity for the first half of this year, KCNA said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
According to Yonhap, the meeting has been convened as North Korea seeks to bolster ties with Russia and China during “intensifying Sino-US rivalry and Russia’s war on Ukraine”.
“Pyongyang also faces increasing security cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan, with the three countries’ defence chiefs agreeing to operate a system to share North Korean missile warning data in real-time within the year,” Yonhap added.
North Korea fired two short-range missiles off its east coast on Thursday, less than an hour after it warned of an “inevitable” response to military drills staged earlier in the day by South Korean and US troops. North Korea has long maintained that such drills threaten its security and are conducted in preparation for a possible invasion of its territory one day.
Yonhap also reported on Friday the arrival of a US nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN) at a naval base in Busan on the country’s southeast coast.
The arrival of the 18,000-tonne USS Michigan SSGN marked the first time in six years that a US submarine of its class had docked in South Korea, and comes amid increasing North Korean rhetoric and test missile launches in response to Seoul’s growing US military cooperation with Washington.
Weapons tested by North Korea so far this year include a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile and various shorter-range weapons.
Experts say Kim’s aggressive weapons push has put further strain on North Korea’s struggling economy, which was already damaged by decades of mismanagement, crippling US-led sanctions over his nuclear weapons programme, and COVID-19 pandemic-related border closures that reduced trade with China, its main ally and economic lifeline.
Thursday’s missile firings were North Korea’s first rocket activity since May 31, when a long-range rocket carrying the country’s first spy satellite crashed off the Korean peninsula’s west coast.
South Korea’s defence ministry said on Friday that military search crews had salvaged what it believes is part of the crashed North Korean rocket. The debris was to be analysed by the US and South Korean militaries. The South Korean defence ministry released photos of the white, metal cylinder, which some experts said would have been the rocket’s fuel tank.