North Korea calls first meeting of new Parliament

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a firing competition among teachers of Kim Jong Suk Naval University and Kim Chaek Air Force University. The country said on Thursday its new Parliament would meet for the first time in April. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a firing competition among teachers of Kim Jong Suk Naval University and Kim Chaek Air Force University. The country said on Thursday its new Parliament would meet for the first time in April. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea said on Thursday its new Parliament would meet for the first time in April, in a session expected to endorse personnel changes after the shock execution of leader Kim Jong Un's once-powerful uncle.

North Koreans earlier this month cast their ballots in a pre-determined election for the rubber-stamp parliament, which provides a glimpse into power shifts within the secretive regime.

"The 1st Session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly of (North Korea) will be convened in Pyongyang on April 9," state media said.

It did not give details on the duration and agenda, but the North's Parliament usually convenes for a single day.

The Parliament is widely expected to cement a reshuffle following the execution of Jang Song Thaek, who was purged last December after being accused of crimes including treason.

Analysts say the changes may affect the powerful National Defence Commission chaired by Mr Kim, in which Jang served as vice-chairman. Several other elderly military leaders are also likely to be replaced.

Before the meeting, the North is expected to convene a plenary session of the ruling party's decision-making Central Committee or the high-level Political Bureau, to fix key policies and put forward candidates for top posts behind closed doors.

"The Parliament is likely to approve personnel changes within the National Defence Commission and government posts that have been made in the aftermath of Jang's execution," said Mr Chang Yong Seok from the Institute for Peace and Unification.

The March 9 elections were the first to the Supreme People's Assembly under the leadership of Kim, who took over the reins of power on the death of his father Kim Jong Il, in December 2011.

The results were a foregone conclusion, with 687 approved candidates elected unopposed in an exercise that doubles as a national head count, with all registered voters taking part except those who are abroad.

Like his father before him, Mr Kim Jong Un stood as a candidate - in constituency number 111, Mount Paektu, a place given a divine status under official propaganda that says Kim Jong Il was born on its slopes.

Elections are normally held every five years to the assembly, which only meets once or twice a year, mostly for a day-long session, to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions made by the ruling Workers' Party.

The last session in April 2013 adopted a special ordinance formalising the country's position as a nuclear weapons state - a status that both South Korea and the United States have vowed not to recognise.

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