The central committee of the North Korean Workers’ Party held a plenary meeting Friday. One week before an inter-Korean summit, the regime’s ruling party gathered to discuss and decide upon policy issues of a new stage in its history, speculations said although the meeting results were not reported. In the meantime, the two Koreas opened a hotline between their leaders Friday and tested a phone conversation between working-level officials. By early next week, the historic and first call between the two leaders will be made and Seoul could send a presidential special envoy to Pyongyang to facilitate preparations for the inter-Korean summit.
North Korea’s holding a plenary session after two congressional meetings this month can be interpreted as part of the regime’s effort to come up with grounds for negotiations through making a significant shift in policy before an inter-Korean and North Korea-U.S. summits. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has emphasized his regime’s “nuclear force completion,” but now has no option but to amend its previous policy as he expressed his willingness to discuss denuclearization to the South’s presidential envoy and CIA Director Mike Pompeo during their visit to Pyongyang. North Korea’s official KCNA news agency reported that its ruling party’s session would deal with “policy issues of a new stage in line with the demand of the important historic period of the developing Korean revolution.”
All eyes are on whether the dual policy known as Byongjin, which means seeking nuclear armament and economic development simultaneously that approved by North Korea’s ruling party in 2013, will be changed. North Korea’s media outlets in recent months mentioned a new Byongjin policy only, without a single word of “nuclear force completion” or “economic development and nuclear armament together.” Pyongyang also needs to explain its leader’s significant change in policy to its people who may be baffled most by its regime’s dramatic change in policy direction.
As is well documented, North Korea has broken all earlier denuclearization agreements and has repeatedly continued nuclear development programs. It is only natural that the international community questions if Kim Jong Un is really willing to seek denuclearization no matter how he tries hard to express his determination. A change in policy by the regime’s ruling communist party will serve as an opportunity to officially announce that it desires to become a member of the international community while making it clear that Kim is determined to go for denuclearization.
The hotline between the South’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the North’s state affairs committee has been established and now the two leaders can have direct phone conversations. Seoul and Pyongyang will be able to solve a problem through direct talks if any contingency or emergent issue arises. until now, the journey toward normalization of inter-Korean relations seems to have been smooth. However, a meaningful outcome will come after an inter-Korean summit slated to take place on April 27, and a summit between Pyongyang and Washington expected to be held in May or early June. Only thorough preparation and examination will make a successful meeting.