North Korean parliament scheduled to convene in Pyongyang
North Korea was scheduled to convene a rare meeting of its national legislature on Sunday, possibly providing an opportunity for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to send a message directed at South Korea or the United States.
The Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), which is nominally the highest law-making body under the North Korean constitution but effectively functions as a rubber-stamp parliament, was due to hold its meeting in Pyongyang on Feb. 6. The gathering, which is the 6th session of the 14th SPA, was scheduled at a plenary session of the standing committee of the SPA held in December last year.
As of press time, neither the North's official Korean Central News Agency or Rodong Sinmun had confirmed that the SPA meeting took place.
The meeting is expected to confirm state and party policies that were already decided at the fourth plenary session of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party at the end of last year, including national budgets and projects for 2022 and other pieces of legislation.
However, it remains to be seen whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a message directed at the United States and South Korea.
Kim was not selected for a five-year term as an SPA representative in March 2019, but he is frequently invited to speak at the legislature.
At the first meeting of the 14th SPA in April 2019, Kim said he was willing to hold the third U.S.-North Korea summit, while Kim delivered a speech on the second day of the 5th meeting where he declared his intention to restore communication channels with Seoul.
He also expressed his distrust of the United States and showed readiness to continue pursuing nuclear and missile development.
However, the North Korean leader was absent from the second meeting of the legislature in August 2019, the third meeting in April 2020, and the fourth meeting in January last year.
In the absence of any messages aimed at the United States or South Korea, observers are also watching Sunday’s meeting closely for any foreign policy cues that might hint at Pyongyang’s next steps.
North Korea has ratcheted up tensions with South Korea and the United States by conducting seven tests of hypersonic cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and one intermediate-range ballistic missile in the new year.
Pyongyang’s state media also announced that the Workers’ Party Politburo was reviewing the possibility of scrapping a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, which has been in place since late 2017.
The SPA is also expected to set goals for certain mid-term projects, such as emergency disease control measures, rural development and alleviating food shortages, which were discussed at the party’s plenary session.
The legislature may also issue a statement urging the strengthening of internal solidarity and economic growth on the occasion of late leader Kim Jong-il’s 80th birthday, which falls on Feb. 16, and the 110th birthday of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung.
Kim Jong-un will also mark his 10th year in power this coming April.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]