Amid outside pressure, N Korea sets date for key convention

This picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 24, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) during the inspection of an underwater test-fire of a strategic submarine ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea on April 23, 2016. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un hailed a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test as an "eye-opening success", state media said on April 24, declaring Pyongyang has the ability to strike Seoul and the US whenever it pleases.  / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / KCNA /  - South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP.  /



Facing mounting international pressure over its nuclear and missile ambitions, North Korea has set a date for its biggest political convention in decades next week that is expected to bolster young dictator Kim Jong un’s grip on power.
The ruling Workers’ Party, led by Kim, will open its 7th congress in Pyongyang on May 6, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Wednesday.
It will be the first time the congress, the highest-level decision-making party organ, will be held since 1980, when Kim’s late father Kim Jong Il was awarded a slew of top jobs in a confirmation that he was in line to succeed his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.
Since taking power upon the death of his father in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has been struggling to revive his country’s troubled economy and grapple with an international standoff over its nuclear and missile programs.
The crisis deepened earlier this year when North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch, which led to the UN slapping its toughest sanctions on Pyongyang in 20 years. South Korea and the United States also made their ongoing springtime military drills the largest ever.
In response, Kim last month ordered tests of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads. That sparked outside speculation that North Korea could perform a fifth nuclear test ahead of the political convention to burnish his image as a stronger leader fighting hard against foreign aggressions.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Tuesday that the North was believed to have completed preparations for a new atomic bomb test. Park warned that such a move would result in stronger sanctions and pressure that would speed up North Korea’s collapse. The North’s state media did not say what would be discussed and decided on during the congress. A previous KCNA report said the North decided to hold the convention as the country was faced with “the heavy yet sacred task” of building a “thriving” nation.
South Korea’s spy service said Wednesday it expects Kim to use the congress to try to strengthen and prolong his authoritarian leadership. The National Intelligence Service said the convention would handle personnel reshuffles, review state projects and revise party regulations.

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