North Korea is holding a huge rally in capital Pyongyang to mark the end of the Workers’ Party Congress, the first in 36 years.
The congress of North Korea’s ruling party cemented the position of leader Kim Jong-un, elevating him to the role of party chairman.
On May 10, state media announced that Kim Jong-un’ sister, Kim Yo-jong, had been elected to the ruling committee.
The Congress also endorsed the national policy of building nuclear capability alongside economic development.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have joined the rally in Pyongyang, where Kim Jong-un was seen waving to the crowds and chatting with military and party officials.
People marched through the square waving pink paper flowers, colored balloons and red party flags. Floats were also moved through the square, some of them carrying mock-ups of missiles.
The confirmation of a new title for Kim Yo-jong had been widely expected.
Kim Jong-un’s younger sister is already influential as vice-director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, but her elevation to the central committee is seen as a further consolidation of power around her brother.
More than 100 foreign reporters have been granted visas to cover the congress, although only a few were, briefly, allowed in to watch the meeting.
The congress, which began on May 6, also launched a new five-year plan for the economy, which has been hit by some of its strongest sanctions yet after the country’s recent nuclear and rocket tests.
Kim Jong-un also used a speech to say North Korea would not use its nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty was threatened.
China has sent a message of congratulations to Kim Jong-un on his new position, though it declined to send a representative to the gathering.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country will not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is threatened, state media report.
North Korea first tested nuclear weapons in 2006, after withdrawing from an international treaty.
The secretive country has made repeated threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US.
However, Kim Jong-un reportedly told the Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang that he is willing to normalize ties with previously hostile countries.
It appears Kim Jong-un tends to send mixed messages and movement observed at North Korea’s nuclear site is consistent with preparations for another nuclear test.
State media also quoted Kim Jong-un as saying there should be more talks with South Korea to build trust and understanding.
Kim Jong-un said North Korea would “faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for global denuclearization”.
The meeting is the first congress of North Korea’s ruling party since 1980.
The KCNA news agency reported Kim Jong-un as saying: “As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our Republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes.”
Kim Jong-un said the government would “improve and normalize the relations with those countries which respect the sovereignty of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and are friendly towards it, though they had been hostile toward it in the past”.
North Korea withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2003 and started testing nuclear weapons three years later.
International sanctions on North Korea were tightened in March this year after it claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb and launched a missile into space.
The sanctions include export bans on materials used in nuclear and military production as well as restrictions on luxury goods and banking.
A group of three Nobel laureates have said that sanctions imposed on North Korea are hampering health and science and should be eased.
They were speaking in Beijing after visiting Pyongyang in what was billed as an attempt to promote dialogue.
International sanctions on North Korea were further tightened in 2016 after the secretive country claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb and launched a missile into space.
The laureates’ visit came as a rare Workers’ Party congress opened in North Korea, with Kim Jong-un hailing his country’s “great success” in its nuclear advancements.
The congress is widely seen as a chance for Kim Jong-un to cement his power within the ruling party.
South Korea urged the foreign delegation not to visit North Korea, fearing it would become a propaganda coup for the North.
“We didn’t come to criticize them,” said Aaron Ciechanover, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004.
“We really came to converse and to exchange dialogue with students.”
On sanctions, Aaron Ciechanover said “you cannot turn penicillin into a nuclear bomb… You don’t pressurize via making people sicker”.
Foreign visits to North Korea are carefully monitored and public access to information such as the internet strictly limited.
Nobel laureate for medicine Richard Roberts said he was “quite impressed” with what North Korean scientists had achieved despite sanctions.
“This embargo is really hurting the scientists and that’s a great shame,” he said.
The visit was organized by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation (IPF) and also included Nobel laureate for economics Prof. Finn Kydland, Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein and IPF chairman Uwe Morawetz.
The latest sanctions on North Korea, approved by the UN in March, included export bans on materials used in nuclear and military production as well as restrictions on luxury goods and banking.
A UN resolution stressed the new sanctions were not intended to have “adverse humanitarian consequences” for civilians, many of whom face financial hardships and shortages of food.
Kim Jong-un has opened the North Korea’s Workers’ Party congress by praising the country’s nuclear achievements.
Appearing before thousands of delegates, the North Korean leader said: “Unprecedented results have been accomplished.”
This year, North Korea announced its fourth nuclear weapon test and that it sent a rocket into space.
The showpiece congress, the first in 36 years, is a chance for Kim Jong-un to cement his power.
More than 100 foreign journalists were invited but were barred from the April 25 House of Culture, where the party congress is being held.
They were instead taken on a tour round a wire-making factory.
News of Kim Jong-un’s comments came via state television, which showed him on stage speaking to a packed venue.
This is the seventh meeting of the North Korea’s Worker’s Party and it is being closely scrutinized for any signs of political or economic change.
Few details were released before the congress, but it is due to elect a new central committee, which appoints a Politburo – the central decision-making body of the Communist party.
The appointments will be watched carefully.
In 2013, Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed for “acts of treachery” and there have followed many reports of purges of high-profile figures.
Some experts have said that Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong is tipped for promotion.
Pyongyang was spruced up ahead of the event, with North Koreans planting flowers and hanging up huge banners with slogans like “Defend the Headquarters of the Korean Revolution at the Cost of our Lives”.
No congress was held during the rule of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il. His death in 2011 brought Kim Jong-un to power when he was still in his 20s.
The 1980 congress, held before Kim Jong-un was born, saw Kim Jong-il presented as successor to the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung.
Despite his death in 1994, Kim Il-sung, who has been named North Korea’s “eternal president”, still officially presides over the latest congress, which is expected to run for several days.