On the last day of the historic meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Monday, the ruling party of North Korea conferred the title of chairman on its leader Kim Jong Un. Previously, Kim was the first secretary of the WPK, and the symbolic change in his official title is expected to have no bearing on the authority he wields, which is already absolute.
Kim made a closing speech in which he thanked the party for electing him chairman and reaffirmed his commitment to his policy of “byungjin,” which calls for a parallel development of nuclear capabilities as well as economic development. Kim also said that North Korea would push for a world free of nuclear weapons and fulfill its obligations responsibly as a nuclear state, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.
The newly elected chairman added that North Korea would never make a preemptive nuclear strike, and would use the weapons only when its sovereignty was threatened.
Reacting to Kim’s statements at the congress, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said Tuesday: “The North failed to show any sincere change to improve inter-Korea ties and instead vowed to continue to strengthen its nuclear programs, this time describing itself as an official atomic power.”
While Kim’s claims were dismissed by South Korean officials, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Kim Monday for his new title, according to Xinhua. Writing on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, as well as in his personal capacity, Xi said that friendship between the two countries “was personally forged and carefully fostered by the two countries’ leaderships of the older generation.”
Xi added that he hoped North Korea “will achieve new accomplishments in the cause of building socialism under the leadership of the WPK headed by Kim.”
Recently, China — North Korea’s only traditional ally — has been tightening sanctions against the reclusive nuclear-armed nation, and criticized it for its recent nuclear and missile tests.
On Tuesday, a day after the four-day congress ended, Kim presided over a massive parade in Pyongyang that was held to celebrate the successful congress. The civilian parade saw hundreds of thousands of people amass in the Kim Il Sung Square — named after the current leader’s grandfather who founded the country — waving bouquets of artificial flowers and the national flag while they chanted patriotic slogans.
As rows of marchers chanted for a long life for their leader, Yun Song Hua, a 35-year-old medical student at Kim Il Sung University, told the Associated Press: “I’m proud to be able to participate in an event like this with our leader here with us.”
In another interesting development, it turned out that a North Korean general, who South Korean intelligence officials had earlier reported as having been executed, was in fact still alive and in a senior position, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Ri Yong Gil, former chief of the North Korean military’s general staff, was named as a member of the WPK’s central military commission in a report published Tuesday by Pyongyang state media. South Korean officials, in February, had reported that Ri had been executed early that month.