PYONGYANG (AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has had his official party title changed, state media reported yesterday, assuming a position previously held by his late father in what analysts said was a move to bolster his authority.
The North Korean economy is struggling in the face of self-imposed coronavirus isolation, and is subject to multiple sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
At the same time, nuclear talks with the United States have been deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in February 2019.
The ruling Workers’ Party of Korea “unanimously adopted” a decision to elect Kim as general secretary at its congress on Sunday, the official KCNA news agency reported.
“All the delegates expressed full support with stormy applause in great excitement,” it said.
The South Korean military said it detected signs that a military parade may have been staged Sunday night for the congress.
The last such gathering five years ago had named Kim as party chairman in what was largely seen as a formal coronation for the leader, who was in his early 30s at the time.
The new title comes after Kim pledged at the meeting to strengthen his nuclear-armed nation’s military capabilities, and called the US his country’s “foremost principal enemy”.
He also admitted that “almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives” in North Korea’s previous economic plan.
Experts said the new nomenclature was largely symbolic, with the congress changing job titles to reinstate a previously scrapped party secretariat system.