North Korea opens key party meeting to tackle its struggling economy and discuss defense strategies

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — In the presence of leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea opened a key political conference to discuss improving its ailing economy and revising defense strategies in the face of rising tensions. with its rivals, according to state media on Saturday.

The expanded plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee took place as the United States sent a nuclear-powered submarine to South Korea in the latest allied show of force against the North, which intensified its testing of nuclear-capable missiles at a record pace in recent months.

During the first day of meetings on Friday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said, party officials reviewed the country’s economic campaigns for the first half of 2023 and discussed foreign policy. and defense strategies to “cope with changing international circumstances”.

The agency did not specify what was discussed or mention Kim’s comments. He said the meeting will continue for at least another day.

Friday’s arrival of the USS Michigan in South Korea’s port of Busan came a day after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern seas in response to US-South Korea live-fire drills. Koreans that took place near the inter-Korean border. border this week.

With the deployment of the USS Michigan, the U.S. and South Korean navies plan to conduct exercises focused on strengthening their special operations and joint combat capabilities as part of the latest combined allied training to deal with threats growing North Koreans.

Pyongyang has condemned the allies’ combined drills as invasion rehearsals. North Korea has used the expansion of U.S.-South Korean exercises as a pretext to step up its own weapons demonstrations, including test-firing around 100 missiles since the start of 2022. The weapons tested by the North this year include a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile designed to reach the American mainland and various shorter-range weapons targeting South Korea and Japan.

Experts say Kim’s aggressive arms push has put additional pressure on North Korea’s isolated economy, which was already damaged by decades of mismanagement, crippling US-led sanctions on its agenda. nuclear weapons and pandemic-related border closures that have reduced trade with China, its main ally and economic lifeline.

Thursday’s missile launches 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 west coast of the Korean peninsula. .

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Friday that military search teams had recovered what it believed to be part of the crashed North Korean rocket. The debris was to be analyzed by the American and South Korean military. The ministry released photos of the white metal cylinder, which some experts say was the rocket’s fuel tank.

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