UPDATE : 2019.6.18 TUE 11:49
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N.K. leader re-elected as chairman of State Affairs Commission

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been re-elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the communist state's highest decision-making body, in a key parliamentary meeting, state media reported Friday.

The North's Premier Pak Pong-ju has also been replaced with Kim Jae-ryong, a senior member of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, during the first session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly held Thursday, the Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party on April 10, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)

"The election of the Supreme Leader as chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK is the great political event of crucial historical significance," the KCNA said.

Kim was elected to the post first in June 2016, when the commission was created through an amendment to the constitution. Though it has been only three years since the election, his new five-year term should technically start with the beginning of the newly formed parliament.

Thursday's session drew keen attention as it would determine the new makeup of the country's leadership.

In the meeting, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam was replaced by Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, according to the media.

North Korea's top nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol and others involved in February's second summit with the United States, including Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, were also elected as members of the State Affairs Commission.

The summit in Hanoi fell apart as North Korean leader Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump failed to find common ground over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with Washington's sanctions relief.

Pyongyang wanted major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear facility. But Washington insisted on what officials described as "a big deal" that called for trading sanctions relief for the dismantlement of all of the North's nuclear and other weapons programs.

During key party meetings held ahead of the parliamentary session, Kim stressed the importance of "self-reliance" repeatedly and urged his people to follow through on the party's strategic line of economic development.

He mentioned his second summit with Trump in late February but steered clear of criticism directly pointed at Washington or his country's nuclear program.

Thursday's parliamentary meeting coincided with summit talks between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Thursday (local time).

The two shared the need for maintaining dialogue with North Korea to peacefully resolve its nuclear issue and Moon expressed hope to hold a fourth inter-Korean summit with Kim. Trump, however, reaffirmed his stance to maintain sanctions on Pyongyang to force it to give up its nuclear weapons program.

The parliamentary meeting, meanwhile, also touched upon budgetary issues for the communist state.

According to the KCNA, the North will assign 47.8 percent of its total expenditures this year to economic construction projects. The amount will expand 105.4 percent on-year.

In particular, its investment in science and technology will expand by 108.7 percent on-year.

The North forecast that its revenue will grow 103.7 percent on-year this year, with its expenditures projected to increase 105.3 percent over the same period, the state media reported.(Yonhap)

Cho Kuyung-hee  edt@koreapost.com

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