North Korea shifts away from warlike rhetoric amid nuclear tension

By Hyung-jin Kim

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 1 2013 7:16 a.m. MDT

At a session last April, Kim was made first chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, the body's top post.

On Sunday, Kim presided over a separate plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, a top decision-making body tasked with organizing and guiding the party's major projects. The meeting set a "new strategic line" calling for building both a stronger economy and nuclear arsenal.

North Korea's "nuclear armed forces represent the nation's life, which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on Earth," according to a statement issued by state media after the meeting.

Sunday marked the first time for Kim to preside over the committee meeting. The last plenary session was held in 2010, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry, and before that in 1993.

South Korea now faces a major decision. If President Park Geun-hye and her advisers react as her hardline predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, did, "then they're stuck in the same place, where North Korea limps along, but with regime stability," Delury said. If so, then "the risk of a conflict is like a dark cloud over the next five years of the Park Geun-hye administration. It's not such an appealing path for her."

Follow Foster Klug on Twitter at twitter.com/APKlug

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