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North Korea Sets Date for First Ruling Party Congress in 36 Years

FILE - North Koreans parade with the North Korean flag in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, to show their loyalty to the Workers' Party.

North Korea will convene its much-anticipated ruling Workers' Party congress on May 6.

Wednesday's announcement by the official KCNA news agency did not say how long the congress would last, nor did it provide details of the agenda. But observers believe leader Kim Jong Un will use the event to cement his hold on power by affirming claims of recent progress in the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Analysts will also be paying close attention for any policy changes or a reshuffling of key officials.

North Korea has been conducting a continuous series of missile launches in recent weeks, in defiance of a new, stronger set of sanctions imposed by the United Nations over its fourth nuclear test in January, and a ballistic missile test the following month. And South Korea has warned that Pyongyang will conduct a fifth nuclear test shortly before the Workers' Party congress begins.

Next month's congress -- the seventh since North Korea's founding in the late 1940s -- is the first since 1980, when Kim's late father, Kim Jong Il, emerged as the successor to his own father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.