North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly — the country’s parliament — is meeting today, as Kim Jong-un prepares for upcoming summits with South Korea President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump.
The Supreme People’s Assembly will convene in the capital Pyongyang today, four days before the anniversary of founding leader Kim Il-sung’s birth.
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It’s also the sixth anniversary of Kim Jong-un’s election as the first secretary of the Workers’ Party.
State-run Korean Central News Agency recently claimed that party leaders have approved a budget for this year that will be presented at the meeting.
However, the news agency did not specify whether Kim will attend the meeting.
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The parliament, which has 686 members, usually meets once or twice a year to discuss and approve issues regarding government structures and budgets in line with Kim’s Workers’ Party’s decisions.
While the Assembly is generally considered to have a mere rubber-stamp role in the party’s government, Kim’s international agenda this year is attracting attention worldwide.
Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, told Reuters,
The April assemblies are regular meetings where North Korea makes decisions on key state projects.
This time, we’re looking at inter-Korean summits and the US-North Korea summit, so there may be some measures or speeches linked to those but we’ll have to see.
North Korea would appear to be becoming more open to building international relationships and Kim has recently completed a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, while his foreign minister currently is in Moscow to explore the chance of a possible meeting with Vladimir Putin.
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The North Korean leader also briefed his party about contacts with South Korea and the US on Monday.
An inter-Korean summit is scheduled for the end of April, while Kim and Trump are to meet later in May or June.
Tensions between the two began softening in January, almost a year after North Korea staged missile launches and nuclear tests.
However, South Korea’s unification ministry recently said chances that the parliament will discuss North Korean’s weapon programme is highly unlikely.
A ministry official said:
The Supreme People’s Assembly is an annual event. It is expected this year they will also discuss the settlement of accounts, the year’s budget, organization and personnel issues.
This means that the Supreme People’s Assembly could be discussing the replacement of 90-year-old Kim Yong-Nam, the country’s nominal head of state since 1998.
Despite accompanying Kim’s sister Yo-jong to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, there are rumours that he might be on the brink of retirement.
The Assembly has however previously used its meetings to clarify where it stands on its nuclear programmes.
In April 2012 the Assembly announced the country had become a nuclear state. A summit the following year saw the Assembly discussing and approving a law that classified its possession of nuclear weapons as self-defence.