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Workers’ Party birthday passes with no missile test

Now analysts look to Oct. 18 as next possible date of provocation
Oct 11,2017
The 72nd founding anniversary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday passed with no nuclear or missile test as of press time, allaying fears that Pyongyang might mark the occasion with a show of force.

Suh Hoon, South Korea’s head of the National Intelligence Service, which is equivalent to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, had said last month during a parliamentary briefing that the regime appeared to be preparing an intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missile test aimed at a normal angle towards the northern Pacific.

One possible date mentioned by the spy chief was around Oct. 10.

The military is now anticipating Oct. 18, next Wednesday, when China holds its national congress of the Communist Party, through which President Xi Jinping is expected to receive a second five-year term as the party’s top leader. Chung Eui-yong, President Moon Jae-in’s top national security advisor, said late last month that the North could stage a provocation near that second date.

More recently, a Russian lawmaker who visited North Korea last week told Moscow’s public RIA news agency that Pyongyang was preparing for a long-range missile test in the “near future” that was capable of striking America’s west coast. South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, confirmed that no major event or ceremony was held in the North on Tuesday to celebrate the founding of the ruling party.

North Korea’s official media gave hints that the regime was focusing more attention on the 20th anniversary of late former leader Kim Jong-il’s rise to general secretary of the party, which fell on Sunday, and the personality cult surrounding the Kim family tree.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son, was quoted by the state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun as saying the party would promote the legacy of state founder, Kim Il Sung, and Kim Jong-il to fulfill the “socialist achievement of Juche,” or self-reliance.

Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, was praised for founding the Workers’ Party and leading the country through emancipation from Japan’s colonial rule in the early 20th century. His son, Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011, was honored for paving the way to the party’s “golden age,” when North Korea defended its socialist ideals in a “face-off against the United States” and made the country a “worldwide military powerhouse.” The era of Kim Jong-un was characterized by “self-development” of nuclear weapons.

In analyzing the article, a North Korean defector who formerly served as a high-level official in the regime and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “North Korea sees Kim Il Sung as the state founder who saved the country from Japanese colonial rule, while Kim Jong-il is mostly propagandized for leading the country through tough times, when other socialist nations faced demise from the late 1980s and the North had to cope with a major economic downfall.”

He added, “In patriarchal North Korea, the Workers’ Party is perceived as the mother, and Kim Il Sung at a higher position, the father.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JEONG YONG-SOO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]