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N. Korea to hold key parliamentary meeting this week

Jan. 17, 2023 - 09:59 By Yonhap
This photo from Jan. 1, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaking at a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, raising the need to exponentially increase the number of its nuclear arsenal. (KCNA)

North Korea is scheduled to convene a key parliamentary meeting this week amid keen attention over whether its leader Kim Jong-un will attend it to issue another message of the country's development of nuclear and other major weapons.

The secretive North earlier announced its plan to hold the eighth session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly on Tuesday to discuss policy tasks, state budgets and organizational matters for 2023.

The North's state media has not reported whether the meeting has started. It is widely expected to last for at least two days, with its results likely to be made public later on.

The SPA is the highest organ of state power under the North's constitution, but it actually only rubber-stamps decisions by the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

Observers said the SPA is widely expected to approve major decisions made at the WPK's plenary meeting held in late December last year.

During the party meeting, the North's leader called for an "exponential" increase of the country's nuclear arsenal, while labeling South Korea as his country's "undoubted enemy."

Experts said one of the major focal points for the SPA meeting would be whether Kim will use the session to deliver a message toward South Korea or the United States.

In an SPA session in April 2019, Kim voiced his willingness to hold his third summit with then US President Donald Trump following the no-deal second summit in early 2019. In a meeting in September 2021, Kim said he would restore the severed inter-Korean communication channel.

During an SPA meeting in September 2022, the North's leader publicly announced the legalization of nuclear weapons, as its parliament approved a new law that allows for a preemptive nuclear strike.

North Korea fired around 70 ballistic missiles last year, the most in a single year, including the Nov. 18 firing of a Hwasong-17 ICBM, amid speculation it may conduct a nuclear test in the near future.

Some observers said Kim may not attend the SPA meeting, given the country will likely rather focus on preparing events to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army on Feb. 8.

Other agenda items for the SPA session include matters over the work of the central prosecution office and the issue of adopting a law on the protection of the Pyongyang dialect.

By dealing with such issues, the North appears aimed at tightening state control over people's discipline, and the inflows of outside culture and information. (Yonhap)