North Korea begins its first Workers' Party gathering in more than 36 years as the country's ruler Kim Jong-un aims to strengthen his grip over the isolated country. The congress takes place amid high tensions in the Korean peninsula.
Even as the gathering is set to kick off, Pyongyang has warned it will not scale down its nuclear activities as threats from the hostile US remains active. In a statement released by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) – which is responsible for inter-Korean affairs – the North blamed Washington for setting off the nuclear standoff in the region.
The Committee argued it is perfectly acceptable to counter the US's threats "over nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons".
The defiant warning has come when thousands of delegates have come together in Pyongyang for the once-in-a-generation event – informally, the official coronation of Kim as the supreme leader of the country.
This is the first such gathering since the ruling Kim took over power close to five years ago. It is also the seventh Workers' Party gathering in North Korea.
The country is also known to flex its military muscle at such political occasions. Hence, its neighbouring rival, South Korea, is bracing for any sabre-rattling during the event, which may run up to three or four days.
"North Korea appears to seek to establish the socialist party-centered system and further consolidate the Kim Jong-un regime through the party congress," Jeong Joon-hee, a South Korean unification ministry spokesperson told a routine press conference, according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency.
Kim is expected to address the congress to inaugurate the event. Analysts are also looking at major policy announcements to see whether there will be any recalibration in Kim's so-called Byungjin policy – the simultaneous development of both the nuclear arsenal and economic growth.