North Korea will convene a major parliamentary meeting next month, Pyongyang’s state media said Wednesday, amid lingering tensions sparked by the country’s nuclear and missile development programs.
The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly decided to hold the fifth session of the country’s 13th assembly on April 11, the Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch.
The SPA, the country’s legislative body, is the highest organ of state power under the North’s constitution, but it actually rubber-stamps decisions by more powerful organizations, such as the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
|North Korea holds the fourth session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly in Pyongyang. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)|
The North’s last parliamentary meeting was held in June last year when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was elected as the chairman of the newly created State Affairs Commission.
Every April, the SPA holds a plenary session, attended by hundreds of deputies, to finalize the country’s budget spending and overhaul Cabinet organs. But the North’s parliament held a smaller meeting led by its presidium in March last year ahead of the WPK’s party congress held in May.
The North’s leader was elected the chairman of the WPK in the party congress, a move aimed at reaffirming his one-man leadership.
The upcoming parliamentary session is timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Kim Jong-un becoming the first secretary of the WPK, his previous title of the party chief.
The current young leader has strengthened his power through a reign of terror since late 2011 when his father Kim Jong-il died of heart failure.
It is rare for the country’s assembly to make a decision on foreign policies at its key session, but in April 2012, it decided to state that North Korea is a nuclear state in the preface of the Constitution.
At the party congress, the North’s leader said that his country will “permanently” pursue his dual policy of developing nuclear weapons in tandem with boosting the country’s moribund economy, commonly known as the “byeongjin” policy.
“Usually, the SPA decides on the country’s budget spending in April,” said an official at Seoul’s unification ministry. “But the North’s leader may deliver a message, given that the upcoming event is its first assembly since US President Donald Trump took office.”
The United States is likely to unveil its new North Korea policy soon, which likely center on ramping up pressure on Pyongyang.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that all options, including military action, are on the table in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006 and claimed it has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile which would target the US mainland.
In April, North Korea is set to celebrate key anniversaries including the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung which falls on April 15. The Korean People’s Army marks the 85th anniversary of its creation on April 25.
“This year, North Korea could put priority on increasing budget spending on the light industry or agriculture, rather than the military as it anticipates South Korea’s political transition in May,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute.
“But I think that there is a high possibility that Pyongyang could conduct large-scale provocative acts including another nuke test or the launch of an ICBM ahead of the founder’s birthday,” he added.
Lee Duk-haeng, spokesman at the Ministry of Unification, said that there is a need to watch North Korea’s behavior around the session due to speculation about its possible nuclear and missile provocations.
Analysts added that Pyongyang may conduct a reshuffle of members of the State Affairs Commission at the upcoming event to fill a vacancy following the dismissal of spy chief Kim Won-hong.
Kim was sacked from the post of minister of state security in mid-January after a probe by the ruling party found his agency had abused authority. He was among eight members of the newly created organ SAC.
The SAC replaced the National Defense Commission, which played a key role under the Kim Jong-il regime.
“As the Kim Jong-un regime appears to be relatively stable, the country would probably hold the assembly session in a celebrative mood (in the key year),” said Kim Keun-sik, a professor at Kyungnam University.
Other experts said that North Korea may unveil a set of economic measures that could include tax reforms or steps to spur operations of markets.
At last year’s party congress, the North’s leader laid out a five-year strategy for economic growth, but his vision did not contain details such as specific targets. (Yonhap)
Source : Yonhap News Agency