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North Korea Prepares for Major Party Congress Amid Growing Challenges

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the 20th Enlarged Meeting of the Political Bureau of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on November 16, 2020 by KCNA.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a politburo meeting on preparations for a rare Congress that is expected to set new economic and political goals as the country faces growing challenges, state media said Wednesday.

The Eighth Congress comes amid the presidential transition in the United States, which North Korea has yet to comment on. President Donald Trump had engaged in a number of historic meetings with the leader of the reclusive state during his administration, and it is not yet clear what Joe Biden's presidency will mean for relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea has faced a number of challenges in 2020 with COVID-19 and a series of typhoons putting more pressure on an economy already battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear program.

The politburo meeting on Tuesday approved agendas and proposals to be presented at the congress and adopted a decision on holding it early in January next year, state news agency KCNA reported, without specifying an exact date.

In October, Kim called on his country to embark on an 80-day campaign to achieve its goals in every economic sector before the congress in January.

The politburo meeting appreciated that innovative achievements and progress had been made in all fields during the 80-day campaign, KCNA said.

"All the preparations for the Party Congress are going off smoothly," KCNA reported.

The congress last met in 2016, where Kim announced the first five-year economic plan since the 1980s and vowed to not use nuclear weapons unless the country's sovereignty was violated by others with nuclear arms. It was also when Kim was officially elected to the position of chairman of the ruling Workers' Party.

North Korea has not reported any coronavirus cases, but the economy took a further hit when the country closed its borders to nearly all traffic in a bid to prevent coronavirus outbreak.