Asia Pacific / Politics

Powerful North Korean decision-making body set to decide 'new orientation' ahead of Trump-Moon summit

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korea has announced that the Central Committee of its ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was set to hold a meeting Wednesday to discuss and decide what it called a “new orientation” just days ahead of South Korean leader Moon Jae-in’s visit to the White House.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch Wednesday morning that the powerful decision-making body would “discuss and decide the new orientation and ways of struggle in line with the need of the prevailing revolutionary situation.”

At last year’s meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that his country no longer needed to test nuclear weapons or longer-range missiles, would close its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and was shifting its primary focus to its tattered economy.

In a separate report Wednesday, KCNA said that an enlarged meeting of the WPK’s politburo had been held a day earlier, and that Kim had “urged the need for leading officials to fully display a high sense of responsibility and creativity, and the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and fortitude … under the prevailing tense situation and thus follow through on the new strategic line of the Party.”

With Moon set to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday in Washington, Wednesday’s Central Committee meeting will be closely watched for any shifts in the nuclear-armed country’s policy.

Moon is believed to be pushing for the targeted easing of crushing sanctions against the North as a way of bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program after the last Trump-Kim summit, held in late February in Hanoi, ended with no agreement.

That summit, the pair’s second meeting, collapsed over a failure to reconcile North Korean demands for sanctions relief with U.S. demands for Kim to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea has since warned that it is considering halting talks and may rethink a freeze on missile and nuclear tests, in place since late 2017, unless Washington relents and makes concessions.

However, the Trump administration has publicly remained firm that crippling economic sanctions will not be lifted until the North relinquishes its nuclear weapons.

“President Trump has been unambiguous,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week. “Our administration’s policy is incredibly clear: Economic sanctions, United Nations Security Council sanctions, will not be lifted until we achieve the ultimate objective that we set out now almost two years ago.”