Pyongyang Tightens Security Ahead of Congress

Pyongyang Tightens Security Ahead of CongressPyongyang Tightens Security Ahead of Congress

North Korea has tightened security ahead of a ruling party congress, South Korea said on Friday, with authorities keen to avoid any “mishap” at the gathering at which advances in the drive for nuclear weapons will likely be hailed.

Thousands of delegates are expected in the capital, Pyongyang, from May 6 for the first congress in 36 years at which young leader Kim Jong Un is expected to cement his leadership and formally declare the country a nuclear-armed state, Reuters reported. “Strengthening security can be seen as a measure to prevent mishaps over the party congress,” Cheong Joon-hee, spokesman of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which oversees dealings with the North, told a briefing.

North Korea has in the past taken such steps ahead of major events and has at times also shut down its border with China for the same reason, Cheong said. Pyongyang announced the Workers’ Party congress in October, but only confirmed the May 6 starting date on Wednesday.

The Daily NK, a website run by defectors with sources in North Korea, said that since mid-April, free movement in and out of the capital has been stopped and security personnel have been summoned from the provinces to step up domestic surveillance.

The congress, expected to last four or five days, will be closely watched for any new policies and for how North Korea presents its pursuit of nuclear weapons, which has intensified since January when it conducted its fourth nuclear test.