North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang on April 10, 2019, in this photo provided by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. Kim called repeatedly for self-reliant economic development as he vowed never to cave in to U.S.-led sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program, according to KCNA. — YONHAP/VNA Photo
SEOUL — North Korea said on Wednesday it will convene a key meeting of the ruling Workers' Party later this month to decide on "crucial issues," raising speculation that a major policy change could be forthcoming, possibly with regard to nuclear negotiations with the United States.
North Korea decided to "convene the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the WPK in the latter part of December in order to discuss and decide on crucial issues in line with the needs of the development of the Korean revolution and the changed situation at home and abroad," the Korean Central News Agency said.
The meeting, the first of its kind in about eight months, is expected to be focused on a possible policy change in its denuclearisation talks with the US as the year-end deadline, which Pyongyang set for the United States to make a new negotiating proposal, is drawing closer.
During the previous party meeting in April, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un urged the US to come up with proposals acceptable to Pyongyang before the end of this year and warned that he could take a "new way" if Washington fails to do so.
Nuclear talks have been stalled since the no-deal summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in February as they remained far apart over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearisation steps with Washington's sanctions relief and other concessions.
The two countries held working-level talks in October but failed again to narrow differences.
North Korea and the US have ramped up pressure on each other to make more concessions to move the stalled talks forward.
On Tuesday, the North's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song issued a statement urging the US to do its part to salvage the negotiations, saying that it is entirely up to the US what "Christmas" gift it wants to get.
Trump later said that the US could take military action, if necessary, against Pyongyang, a rare threat of use of force since he and Kim held their first summit in June last year, though he emphasised his close personal relationship with the North Korean leader.
South Korea's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said that it is not unusual for the North to hold such a plenary party meeting twice a year but added that Seoul needs to closely watch the upcoming session as it comes just ahead of leader Kim's New Year's speech, which usually offers Pyongyang's annual policy direction on diplomatic and domestic issues. — YONHAP