UPDATE : 2018.11.16 FRI 13:10
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Seoul closely watching N.K. parliament session ahead of summits

South Korea's unification ministry said Wednesday it is watching whether North Korea's parliament will unveil key policy directions at its annual session ahead of the country's summits with the South and the United States.

The Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) is presumed to be holding its meeting Wednesday ahead of the April 27 summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim is also set to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in May or June.

The SPA is the highest organ of state power under the constitution, but it actually rubber-stamps decisions by the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK). It holds a plenary session every April to mainly deal with budgets and a cabinet personnel reshuffle.

"The North's leader has attended six SPA meetings of eight sessions (since he took office in late 2011). The government will watch his attendance and results of the session," Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at Seoul's unification ministry, told a press briefing.

This year's meeting is drawing keen attention due to a possibility that the repressive regime may send messages to the outside world ahead of the summits at the otherwise internal political event. Whether the country will unveil a change in its stance on denuclearization is also a point of focus.

This image, captured from footage of North Korea's state TV broadcaster on April 12, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attending the Supreme People's Assembly's meeting in Pyongyang a day earlier. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The ruling party held its politburo meeting on Monday for the first time since February 2015. Kim discussed prospects for dialogue with the U.S. at the meeting, in his first official comment on the planned meeting with Trump.

Wednesday also marks the sixth anniversary of Kim being elected as the first secretary of the WPK. His party title was changed to the WPK chairman at a party congress in May 2016.

On the anniversary, North Korea's Rodong Sinmun, the main organ of the WPK, briefly mentioned Kim's dual policy of seeking economic and nuclear development as one of his achievements.

But the North's state media did not mention the country's completion of nuclear programs, which was announced in November 2017 after the firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

On several occasions, North Korea used the SPA meeting to clarify its stance on its nuclear programs.

At a parliamentary meeting in April 2012, the North stipulated in the preamble of its constitution that the country is a nuclear state.

The following year, the SPA adopted a law codifying its possession of nuclear weapons for self-defense and consolidating its status as a nuclear weapons state.

"The SPA meeting mainly handles the budget and personnel issues. But ahead of the summits, the SPA could express some backing to Kim Jong-un's willingness to improve ties with the South or seek a peace regime and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Dongguk University.

hwi won  edt@koreapost.com

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