North bolsters Kim’s executive powers

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North bolsters Kim’s executive powers

North Korea has enshrined further powers for leader Kim Jong-un in its constitution, according to revisions to the document published by a propaganda website on Saturday.

Naenara, one of Pyongyang’s state-run media outlets, uploaded the full text of the country’s constitution that contained the revisions adopted by the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the regime’s rubber-stamp legislature, on Aug. 29.

Among the main changes was a revision to Article 104, which stipulates that the chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC) - Kim’s official post and the country’s head of state - can now promulgate SPA ordinances, major SAC decrees and appoint or recall the North’s diplomatic envoys to foreign countries.

The investiture of these new powers, formerly reserved for the SPA, means that Kim commands not only a de facto but also statutory authority over all state affairs independently from the legislature.

Kim’s status as an executive separate from the SPA was also formalized with the revision to Article 101, which states that the SAC chairman will be elected by the SPA but no longer serve as a deputy of the body.

When these amendments were first announced at the SPA late last month at its second plenary session of the year, Choe Ryong-hae, the regime’s No. 2 figure and president of the SPA Presidium, said the changes were meant to “provide a firm legal guarantee for stepping up the building of a powerful socialist nation more dynamically under the monolithic guidance of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.”

In the context of Pyongyang’s renewed diplomatic engagement with Washington over denuclearization, the amendments also serve to straighten out the regime’s formal chain of command by giving Kim a comparable official rank to foreign leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump.

Testifying to this were changes regarding the post of the president of the SPA Presidium, the country’s official head of state in matters of foreign affairs prior to the amendment. A revised Article 117 states that the SPA Presidium head would act as - rather than be - the country’s representative when receiving foreign envoys.

Unlike his father and the regime’s previous leader Kim Jong-il, who was content with running the country with a limited public profile, Kim Jong-un has focused on building on his formal authority with multiple revisions to the country’s institutional arrangements since taking power in 2011.

These changes could also be aimed at another summit with Trump by the year’s end, particularly with the U.S. president recently hinting at a “new method” to nuclear negotiations departing from the so-called “Libya model” pushed by former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton. Kim Myong-gil, a former North Korean ambassador to Vietnam and the regime’s top envoy to the negotiations, “welcomed” Trump’s “wise political determination” through a statement on Friday.

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