North Korea's Kim holds top party meeting ahead of US deadline

AFP Seoul Dec 29, 2019, 07.40 AM(IST)

File photo: Kim Jong Un Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The plenary session, which opened on Saturday, follows widespread speculation that Pyongyang is preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile -- as a threatened "Christmas gift" for Washington.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has convened a key meeting of top ruling party officials, state media said Sunday, ahead of a year-end deadline for Washington to shift its stance on stalled nuclear talks.

The plenary session, which opened on Saturday, follows widespread speculation that Pyongyang is preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile -- as a threatened "Christmas gift" for Washington.

Kim presided over the meeting which discussed a new "transparent, anti-imperialist independent stand", the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The ruling Workers' Party of Korea will also "discuss important matters arising... in the building of the state and national defence", KCNA added.

Talks on denuclearising the Korean peninsula have been largely deadlocked since the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed in Hanoi at the start of this year.

The opening of the plenary comes a week after Kim held a meeting of top defence officials and discussed boosting military capabilities, and ahead of the leader's New Year speech on January 1, a key political set-piece in the isolated country.

Pyongyang has carried out a series of static tests at its Sohae rocket facility this month, after a number of weapons launches in recent weeks -- some of them described as ballistic missiles by Japan and others.

North Korea is under heavy US and United Nations sanctions over its nuclear programme, but it has been frustrated at the lack of relief after it declared a moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests.

Russia and China -- North Korea's main ally -- have proposed easing sanctions in a bid to de-escalate tensions.