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(2nd LD) N. Korea amends constitution to cement Kim's grip on power

All News 21:12 August 29, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with N. Korea's announcement)

SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has amended its constitution to further solidify leader Kim Jong-un's "legal" power and authority, its state media reported Thursday, summing up the results of a rubber-stamp parliamentary session.

The 2nd Session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) convened on the day made "some amendments and supplements to the Socialist Constitution" of the communist nation, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Kim was apparently absent from the meeting, attended by 687 deputies, and KCNA cited a report by Choe Ryong-hae, president of the SPA Presidium.

Added to the constitution was a stipulation about the status of the chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC), a position held by Kim.

The SAC chairman is "elected" at the SPA "in accordance with the unanimous will of all the Korean people" and "not elected as deputy to the SPA," Choe was quoted as announcing.

He added that it "constitutionally fixes the status of the SAC chairman as the supreme leader of the party, state and armed forces of the DPRK elected in accordance with the unanimous will and desire of all the Korean people, both in name and reality," KCNA said in the English-language report. The DPRK is the acronym of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The SAC chairman is also "authorized to promulgate SPA ordinances and major SAC decrees and decisions and to appoint or recall diplomatic envoys to foreign countries" under another new stipulation.

Therefore, Choe stressed, the "legal status of the chairman of the SAC representing our state has been further consolidated to firmly ensure the monolithic guidance of the Supreme Leader over all the state affairs," KCNA said.

The first session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea's parliament, takes place in Pyongyang on April 11, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was reelected as chairman of the country's top decision-making body, the State Affairs Commission, at the meeting. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The SPA, nominally the highest organ of state power under the constitution, usually meets once a year to rubber-stamp decisions by the ruling Workers' Party.

During this year's first session in April, Kim was reelected as head of the SAC, the nation's highest seat of power, and its constitution was revised to make him official head of state.

Kim also delivered a rare policy speech during the meeting, expressing a willingness to hold a third summit with U.S. President Donald Trump after their no-deal summit in February and saying that he will wait until year's end for Washington's "courageous" decision.

While North Korea has used the SPA session at times to deliver its position on external affairs, including its relations with the United States, KCNA carried no such message in the report.

Thursday's session came amid expectations that the stalled nuclear talks between the North and the U.S. may resume soon, as joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea have concluded.

Pyongyang has sharply denounced the exercises as proof of hostilities and conducted a series of missile launches in protest. Still, Trump said Kim sent him a letter saying that he would like to start negotiations as soon as the drills are over.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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