North Korea to hold first parliament session under new leader
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Saturday it will hold an annual parliamentary session next month during which the reclusive country’s new young leader, Kim Jong-un, is expected to be appointed officially to top posts of the state.
The announcement by the North’s state news agency that the session will be on April 13 came as concern grew over a decision by the North to launch a rocket next month marking the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth.
The rocket launch, which the United States and other countries say is the same as a ballistic missile test, which is banned under U.N. resolutions, could coincide with the promotion of the young Kim to the top posts.
Even China, North Korea’s main ally, has expressed its worry over the rocket launch, scheduled for between April 12 and April 16, and has urged the North to “stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation”.
The secretive North has twice tested a nuclear device, but experts doubt whether it yet has the ability to miniaturize an atomic bomb to fit inside a warhead.
Many North Korea watchers expect the junior Kim, who is in his late 20s, to be appointed at the assembly to the posts his late father, Kim Jong-il, held.
The father was chief commander of the 1.2 million-strong armed forces and general secretary of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party.
The young Kim took power after his father died in December and many analysts had feared a chaotic succession.
His appointment to the top posts would appear to cement his position as paramount leader and ease lingering fears of a power struggle plunging the country into turmoil.
The young Kim has only been named vice chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission, one of the top ruling bodies in North Korea.
(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Robert Birsel)