North Korea's party congress discusses South Korea, foreign policy

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo supplied by North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 8, 2021. KCNA/via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un explored ways to renew inter-Korean ties and vowed to expand foreign relations, state media said on Friday, as he hosted a rare party congress less than two weeks before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party came amid a prolonged gridlock in negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for U.S. sanction relief.

The gathering is aimed at reviewing the party’s work since its last meeting in 2016 and outlining a new blueprint.

On its third day on Thursday, Kim raised the issue of reshaping South Korean relations “as required by the prevailing situation and the changed times” and discussed foreign policy, the official KCNA news agency reported, without elaborating.

He “declared the general orientation and the policy stand of our party for comprehensively expanding and developing the external relations,” KCNA said.

Biden will come into office facing the thorny task of engineering a breakthrough in the stalemate, after historic summits between Kim and outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump failed to reach agreement.

Inter-Korean relations made some headway around 2018 summits but have soured as the nuclear talks made little headway.

Kim also discussed ways to open “a fresh golden age” in its campaign for socialist culture, as Pyongyang has stepped up its crackdown on outside information, enacting a new law last month banning foreign materials that could instigate “reactionary thought.”

He called for “establishing our own wholesome and revolutionary lifestyle in all spheres of social life and thoroughly eliminating non-socialist elements,” KCNA said.

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