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N. Korea likely to propose beefed-up 'self-reliance' drive at party congress: think tank

This photo, released by the North's Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 22, 2020, shows one of the new propaganda posters highlighting the important tasks set forth at the fifth plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party early this year. This poster reads,
This photo, released by the North's Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 22, 2020, shows one of the new propaganda posters highlighting the important tasks set forth at the fifth plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party early this year. This poster reads, "Self-reliance. Self-prosperity. Let's break through all hardships that hinder our progress." (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea is likely to propose a beefed-up drive for "self-reliance" at the upcoming party congress to bolster its faltering economy under the strain of global sanctions and the fallout from the global pandemic, a Seoul-based think tank said Thursday.

The Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University also said that the January-February period will be a "golden time" to make progress in the stalled nuclear talks and inter-Korean ties.

The North is expected to hold a rare party congress next month to unveil a new economic development scheme. Observers say that it could disclose new policy direction toward the US and South Korea ahead of the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in the United States.

"It is highly likely that they will propose an upgraded 'frontal breakthrough 2.0' that further strengthens its self-reliance to show that sanctions have no effect," the institute said in a report.

Last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for a "frontal breakthrough" in building a self-reliant economy amid little hope for lifting of global sanctions after his no-deal summit with US President Donald Trump in February of the same year.

The think tank pointed out that the North is expected to boost its frontal breakthrough campaign as the incoming Biden administration is more likely to focus on domestic challenges than on nuclear talks with Pyongyang at the start of its term amid dim prospects of the coronavirus pandemic waning.

It also said Seoul could "miss the right opportunity" to make progress in the peace process if they wait until the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which kick off in July, urging its proactive push for coordination on North Korea policy with Washington.

The Tokyo Olympics were seen as an opportunity to resume talks with the North as was the case with the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which led to the historic first-ever summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

"The January-February period, and the first half of the year at the latest, will be the 'golden time' that will determine the future of US-North Korea relations and inter-Korean relations," the think tank said.

"It is important for President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Joe Biden to meet to coordinate policies on North Korea and finalize measures for cooperation at the earliest date possible," it added. (Yonhap)
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