N Korea poised for rare party gathering

Media captionThree leaders to watch at North Korea’s first Workers Party congress in nearly 40 years

North Korea is poised to hold its first party congress in decades, as leader Kim Jong-un seeks to cement his status and chart a vision for the future.

Thousands of delegates begin meeting on Friday for a choreographed show of support being seen as an unofficial coronation.

The congress could also see a new generation of leaders put in place.

Its run-up has seen attempts at missile launches amid speculation the North will conduct a fifth nuclear test.

Sanctions on North Korea were tightened after it conducted a fourth nuclear test in January, and subsequent missile tests.

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But in the seventh party congress, the first since 1980, experts say Kim Jong-un is likely to declare his so-called “Byongjin” policy, which is the simultaneous push towards economic development and nuclear capability.

The state has allowed foreign journalists to cover the congress, although their movements are controlled and they are not allowed access to ordinary North Koreans.

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No congress was held during the rule of Kim Jong-il – Kim Jong-un’s father. His death in 2011 brought Kim Jong-un to power when he was still in his twenties.

The meeting will also elect a new central committee, which appoints a Politburo and other key political roles, and many say loyalists to the current leader will be rewarded with high profile posts.

Who he chooses will be watched carefully. In 2013 Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed for “acts of treachery” and there have followed many reports of purges of high profile figures in the establishment.

Some experts have said that Mr Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong, with whom he attended school in Switzerland, is tipped for promotion.

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All of the nuclear tests have been conducted underground at the Punggye-ni site in the north-east

Many observers will observe announcements carefully to evaluate the North’s commitment to a planned economy, but the congress is also being seen as the public stage for Kim Jong-un to define his leadership for the years to come.

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