December 30, 2019 10:36
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over the weekend vowed to boost the isolated country's "strategic status" in what state media called a "historic report" to an extraordinary session of the Workers Party Central Committee.
The threat, which appeared to be a veiled reference to the North's nuclear arsenal, came just days ahead of a year-end deadline Kim set for U.S. concessions in stalled nuclear talks.
That signals a policy swing from concentrating on economic development back to nuclear arms buildup.
Some 200 to 300 committee members attended the session, with senior officials from other agencies present as observers to bring the total to around 1,000. It was the first time in 29 years that a Central Committee session lasted for more than a day.
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency added that Kim will put forward a "policy and strategy of struggle" to boost the North's armaments.
But Kim avoided straightforward references to his nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs, apparently to shore up support from China.
The U.S., meanwhile, sent the USS Milius, a guided-missile destroyer, to the East Sea in anticipation of a provocation from the North.
The Wall Street Journal predicted that Pyongyang will launch a provocation either on Jan. 8, Kim Jong-un's birthday, or on Feb. 16, his father Kim Jong-il's birthday.
The U.S. also ratcheted up pressure by releasing a video clip showing the intercept of an imaginary North Korean ICBM. The U.S. Air Force base in Kadena, Okiwana posted the clip on Facebook last week. It shows a guided-missile destroyer sighting an incoming missile and an MQ-1 Predator attack drone buzzing in the air.
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