North holds national gathering without leader Kim Jong-un
The 6th session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) took place over two days at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang and was attended by senior ruling Workers’ Party and Cabinet officials, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
However, contrary to earlier anticipation, the meeting did not result in any messages directed at the United States or South Korea.
State media reports of the gathering, which was scheduled at a plenary session of the standing committee of the SPA held in December last year, were awaited by observers of the secretive regime to see if it might use the occasion to hint at the direction of its foreign and military policy amid a slew of seven cruise and ballistic missile tests since early January.
While the body largely functions as a rubber-stamp legislature for decisions already made by the Workers’ Party Politburo, its sessions have been used as a platform for messages to the North’s foreign foes.
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 and then delivered a speech on the second day of the 5th meeting where he declared his intention to restore communication channels with Seoul.
He has also used the SPA platform to express his distrust of the United States and showed readiness to continue pursuing nuclear and missile development.
However, the 6th session of the legislature appears to have focused on more mundane matters.
According to the KCNA, delegates at the SPA session decided to increase the 2022 budget for “emergency epidemic preventative projects” by 33 percent compared to that for 2021, while vowing to ramp up efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to treat it as a “top priority of state affairs.”
“The SPA session appears to have mainly dealt with adopting budgetary and legal measures to support projects in 2022, which were announced at the country's party plenary meeting last year,” an official at the South Korean Unification Ministry told reporters.
Delegates at the SPA session also approved a budget that earmarks 15.9 percent of the total state expenditure to bolster the country’s military capabilities.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]