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N.K. unlikely to adopt new policy deviating from nuke talks at parliamentary meeting: experts

All News 11:20 April 10, 2019

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is unlikely to announce a new policy line breaking away from its nuclear negotiations with the United States when it holds a key parliamentary meeting this week, experts said Wednesday.

Two days ahead of the first session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly, slated for Thursday, North Korea held a politburo meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

During the meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called the current situation "tense" and urged the political bureau officials to follow through on the party's strategic line with a spirit of "self-reliance," the KCNA said.

Experts said the remarks suggest that the North will likely stick to its policy concentrating on economic growth, instead of a major shift in its U.S. or nuclear policy.

"Looking at the tone and the content of Kim's remarks, it seems like North Korea won't make decisions, such as walking away from the talks with the U.S.," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said.

"The North will likely reaffirm its current stance during the parliamentary meeting, focusing on economic development internally, while calling on South Korea and the U.S. to implement the agreements made with the North," he said.

The meeting has been drawing keen attention as North Korea could disclose its next steps following the breakdown of the February summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi.

The meeting also coincides with a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump in Washington scheduled for Thursday at which North Korea will likely be one of the top agenda items.

Cheong Seong-chang, vice president at the Sejong Institute think tank, also said the North won't dramatically change its stance on the nuclear negotiations at a time when Trump is signaling his intention to keep the dialogue mood alive.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) presides over an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang on April 9, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Instead, the meeting could be focused on enforcing strong discipline among North Korean officials, experts said.

During the politburo meeting, Kim pointed to "merits and demerits observed in the work and life" of senior officials and said "undesirable practices" chronic among leading officials should be "rooted out."

"Highlighting self-reliance, North Korea is apparently showing the U.S. that it can endure (the current situation), while sending a message domestically to tighten up discipline to carry on with its current policy," Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said.

Since taking office in late 2011, Kim has used parliamentary meetings to announce major changes in domestic and foreign policy.

The SPA is the highest organ of state power under the North Korean Constitution, but it actually rubber-stamps decisions by the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

On Wednesday, North Korea was to convene a plenary session of the 7th Central Committee of the party to "discuss and decide the new orientation and ways of struggle" ahead of the parliamentary meeting, according to the KCNA.

Cheong said another key issue to be observed at Wednesday's plenary meeting will be the ruling party's personnel reshuffle.

"Considering that Kim mentioned the senior officials' 'merits and demerits' during the politburo meeting, a personnel reshuffle at the party and the government seems inevitable," he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang on April 9, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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