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(3rd LD) N.K. to hold major parliamentary meeting in late June

All News 11:15 June 09, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS reaction from Seoul official in paras 7-8)

SEOUL, June 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea plans to convene a major parliamentary meeting in late June, the North's state media said Thursday, amid the possibility that the country's leader Kim Jong-un could take another title to further solidify his grip on power.

The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) has decided to hold the fourth session of the 13th assembly on June 29, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The SPA, the legislative body of the reclusive country, rubber stamps decisions by more powerful organizations such as the National Defense Commission (NDC) and the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).

The move is widely seen as a follow-up to the WPK's congress held in early May, a venue aimed at helping reaffirm the leader's unfettered rule.

At the congress, North Korea's leader Kim was elected as chairman of the WPK while making it clear that he will "permanently" defend the pursuit of his signature policy of developing nuclear weapons and boosting the country's moribund economy.

North Korea watchers speculated that at the upcoming parliamentary meeting, the North leader's title of the first chairman of the NDC could be changed in an effort to lend further support to his leadership.

"The SPA meeting will approve the decisions of the party congress and pave the way for Kim's prolonged one-man rule," said an official at Seoul's unification ministry. "To this end, the North is likely to amend the constitution and laws and conduct a reshuffle of government officials."

The Seoul official said that there is a chance that Kim could gain a new title as the head of state.

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 this year, the North's parliament held a smaller meeting led by its presidium on March 31 ahead of the ruling party congress.

The North's leader was named the first secretary of the WPK at a party conference held in April 2012 and also appointed as the first chairman of the NDC at the SPA's session of that year.

Analysts said that the SPA's session will serve as an event to complete the coronation of the North's leader who took power in late 2011 following the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il.

"The SPA's meeting will be a venue where the North's leader will reassert his rule as he will conduct an overhaul of Cabinet organs and a lineup of government officials," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.

Kim Keun-sik, a professor at Kyungnam University, said that the North is likely to unveil detailed measures to implement a five-year economic strategy which the North's leader laid out at the WPK's congress.

At the first party congress in 36 years, North Korea's leader called his country a "responsible" nuclear weapons state, saying that it will not use its nukes unless other countries attack it with their nuclear arsenal.

In March, the U.N. Security Council slapped tougher sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in the following month.


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