TOKYO (AP) — North Korea’s ruling party was scheduled to convene a meeting of its full Central Committee on Friday to discuss what state media are calling a “new stage” of policies.
The meeting comes just a week before leader Kim Jong Un is to hold a summit with South Korea’s president on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone that divides their two nations. The meeting, which Kim presided over last year and in 2016, follows a session of the smaller and more powerful party Politburo that was held earlier this month.
The North’s official news agency announced the meeting on Thursday. State media normally don’t report details, or confirm such meetings have begun, until they are finished or until the following day. It was impossible to independently confirm whether it had begun early Friday.
The brief announcement said only that the committee would “discuss and decide the policy issues of new stage in line with the demand of the important historic period of the developing Korean revolution.”
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The committee is comprised of more than 100 senior party members and a roughly equivalent number of alternates.
Kim has embarked on an ambitious strategy of reaching out to his neighbors this year, traveling to Beijing last month for his first summit since assuming power in late 2011. He is to meet South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in next Friday and U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.
Kim’s new-found focus on diplomacy is a sharp contrast with the tone North Korea was taking at this time last year, when he was test-launching ballistic missiles at a record pace and trading insults and taunts with Trump.
The tone of Friday’s meeting will be closely watched for clues about what kind of approach Kim will take in his upcoming summits and how he intends to frame any major changes for his domestic audience.
At last year’s Central Committee meeting, held just six months ago, Kim bitterly criticized the “U.S. imperialists” and defended his nuclear weapons as the fruit of the “people’s bloody struggle for defending the destiny and sovereignty of the country” from Washington.
Pyongyang toned down its rhetoric after Kim announced in his New Year’s address his plan to improve relations with Seoul and send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.
Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, attended the games’ opening ceremony, marking the first time that a member of North Korea’s ruling Kim family had ever traveled to the South.