North Korea's Kim kicks off key party meeting ahead of New Year

SEOUL, Dec 27 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has kicked off a key meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, state media reported on Tuesday, a venue he has often used to announce major policy decisions marking the New Year.

The Sixth Enlarged Plenary Meeting of 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) was convened on Monday, the official KCNA news agency said.

The days-long gathering of party and government officials caps a year when the isolated country fired an unprecedented number of missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

A new round of tension flared on Monday as five North Korean drones crossed into South Korea, prompting Seoul to scramble fighter jets and attack helicopters, and open fire to try to shoot them down.

Kim also faces mounting economic challenges amid international sanctions over its weapons programmes, the fallout from an anti-coronavirus lockdown and natural disasters.

At the meeting, the participants approved five big agenda items including a review of the implementation of major policies and the budget in 2022, as well as the work plan and a draft budget for 2023.

Kim presented a detailed report on how the country's power has "remarkably increased in all fields of politics, military, economy and culture, and successes and progress have been made in carrying out the gigantic tasks ... through this year's unprecedentedly arduous and fierce struggle," KCNA said.

"He stressed the need to lay out more exciting and confident struggle policies based on valuable facts that achieved practical advance while persevering all difficulties."

The report specified the main goals for 2023 in key sectors including metal, chemical, electricity, construction, agriculture and light industry, it added.

North Korean state media previously released its leader's speech on New Year Day, but in recent years, Kim has called party gatherings at the end of the year to make major policy announcements.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Sandra Maler

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