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(LEAD) N.K. revives parliamentary foreign affairs committee

All Headlines 00:18 April 12, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; COMBINES story slugged 'NK-parliamentary meeting'; UPDATES with new info throughout)

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea revived a parliamentary foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, its official media reported, a move seen aimed at beefing up its diplomacy amid toughening international sanctions.

The 13th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) convened the fifth plenary session attended by leader Kim Jong-un clad in a Mao-style suit, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The SPA, North Korea's legislative body, is the highest organ of state power under the constitution, but it actually rubber-stamps decisions by more powerful organizations, such as the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).

The KCNA said that Ri Su-yong, former top diplomat and current vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, was elected to head the SPA foreign affairs committee.

The panel is said to have been created in the late 1980s but abolished 10 years later, experts said.

Other members included Ri Sun-gwon, the head of North Korea's agency handling inter-Korean affairs, and Kim Kye-gwan, a vice foreign minister, it added.

"North Korea appears to be trying to use the SPA foreign affairs committee as a main organ to handle South Korea and the external world," said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute.

The meeting came amid speculation that North Korea may conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch a long-range rocket around key anniversaries in April to celebrate its internal political events.

North Korea marks the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader, on Saturday. It plans to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the military's creation on April 25.

Concerns are growing that the U.S. may seek a pre-emptive attack on the North similar to its latest airstrike against Syria.

But there was no message from the North's leader targeting the U.S. or South Korea at the SPA meeting, the TV footage showed.

North Korea also did not name a new spy chief to fill the vacancy left by the dismissal of Kim Won-hong earlier this year.

South Korean experts raised the possibility that a new spy head would be named to replace Kim, who also doubles as a member of the newly created State Affairs Commission (SAC).

Kim, 72, was fired from the post of spy chief in mid-January after a probe by the WPK found his agency had abused its authority, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

(LEAD) N.K. revives parliamentary foreign affairs committee - 1

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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