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Kim thanks North Koreans for their support 'in difficult times'

Kim thanks North Koreans for their support 'in difficult times'

Kim Jong Un thanked the North Koreans for supporting his leadership in "difficult times" in a rare handwritten New Year's letter published Friday before a crucial ruling party congress that will set the country's economic goals.

The personal message came after the isolated North staged a performance of fireworks, singing and dancing in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to usher in the new year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, which the North insists on. that has not yet reached its shores.

Kim usually delivers a televised speech on January 1 that is scrutinized by Korean watchers for signs of where the lonely state is heading in the new year.

But she skipped the occasion last year, replacing it with an address she had delivered at a party meeting the previous year.

She is expected to drop the televised address again this year ahead of the country's first congress in five years.

State media have said the event will take place in early January, but they have yet to specify the exact dates.

"I sincerely wish all the families across the country greater happiness and dear people, good health," Kim said in the letter broadcast by Korea's Central News Agency.

"In the new year, too, I will work hard to usher in the new era in which the ideals and wishes of our people will come true.

"I thank the people for having invariably trusted and supported our Party even in difficult times," he added, apparently referring to the economic difficulties caused by international sanctions and strict measures against the coronavirus.

South Korean media said it was the first time since 1995 that a North Korean leader had sent a New Year's card to the country's citizens, the latest from Kim's father, Kim Jong Il.

Kim also visited the Kumsusan Sun Palace mausoleum on the outskirts of Pyongyang at midnight, according to KCNA, to pay his respects to his grandfather and father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his successor Kim Jong Il.

The congress, which is expected to set out a new economic and political plan, will be the first such meeting in five years, and only the eighth in North Korean history.

The 2016 congress was the first in North Korea in 36 years.

The congress is expected to take place before Joe Biden's inauguration as president of the United States on January 20.

Relations with the United States have stalled since talks between President Donald Trump and Kim stalled early last year.

Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and the Trump administration came to a standstill after the collapse of the Hanoi summit in early 2019 over sanctions relief.

The incoming US president has characterized Kim as a "bully", while Pyongyang has called Biden a "mad dog."

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