North Korean leader says isolated state has increased economic and military power at opening of key annual gathering.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has hailed his isolated country’s growing economic and military power at the opening of a key annual meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Kim used the opening of the gathering to highlight the past year’s “successes and progress” while calling on officials to launch “more exciting and confident struggles,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Tuesday.

Kim detailed how the country’s power had increased in “all fields of politics, military, economy and culture” during the past year’s “unprecedentedly arduous and fierce struggle,” KCNA said.

“He stressed the need to lay out strategies to launch more exciting and confident struggles based on valuable facts that the country has achieved practical advances after enduring all difficulties.”

The days-long gathering of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party is often used to announce major policies.

This year’s meeting comes after Pyongyang launched a record number of missiles in 2022, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and as its long-struggling economy reels from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gathering also comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula after Seoul scrambled fighter jets and attack helicopters on Monday in response to what it said was an incursion by five North Korean drones into South Korean airspace.

North Korea’s economy shrank for a second year in a row in 2021, according to South Korea’s central bank, as some of the world’s harshest pandemic curbs and international sanctions deepened the reclusive state’s isolation.

Despite international sanctions and censure, Kim, the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, has declared his intention to develop the world’s most powerful nuclear force and described his country’s nuclear-state status as “irreversible”.

Kim has repeatedly refused to resume denuclearisation talks with the United States and its allies without a commitment from Washington to drop its “hostile policies” of sanctions and military drills with neighbouring South Korea.

US and South Korean officials have for months been warning that North Korea is preparing to carry out its seventh nuclear weapons test.

North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles last week following joint military drills by the US and South Korea.

The launches were the latest in a barrage of tests in recent weeks that have prompted condemnation from the US, South Korea and Japan.



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