North Korea’s parliament meets, with Kim Jong Un at center

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North Korea’s parliament meets, with Kim Jong Un at center

Pyongyang, Apr 11 (AP) North Korea’s parliament convened today, with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, taking the center seat.

The parliament meeting comes amid heightened tensions on the peninsula, with the United States and South Korea conducting their biggest-ever military exercises and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier heading to the area in a show of American strength.

North Korea, for its part, has recently test-launched a long-range ballistic missile, and experts say it could be preparing for its sixth nuclear test.

The Supreme People’s Assembly, nominally the highest organ of government, usually meets once or twice a year.

It consists of approximately 600 deputies from around the country who usually confirm new domestic policies, changes to the constitution, budget decisions, laws and official appointments.

Initial reports from state media said the meeting went through various domestic issues, with North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju making a speech about the latest five-year economic plan, which was announced last year.

Another closely watched category on the official agenda was organisational issues, which can mean new appointments of officials to senior positions.

According to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, Pak told deputies to the assembly that the country has “over-fulfilled” its goals on virtually all fronts of the economy and marked successes in everything from increased coal production to the development of a “new type tractor, truck and various high-performance farm implements.” Pak said that the Cabinet this year is prioritizing improving the people’s standard of living and noted, among other things, the need to solve the “acute shortage of electricity.”

Foreign media are not allowed to attend the meetings.

Like other attendees, Kim Jong Un was shown on the North Korean news late Tuesday holding up his assembly membership card to vote on state business.

This year’s meeting kicks off what are expected to be major celebrations, including a large-scale military parade and fireworks, to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s first leader and “eternal president,” and Kim Jong Un’s late grandfather.

Though the details of the April 15 anniversary — known as the “Day of the Sun” — have not been officially confirmed, Pyongyang residents have been out every day diligently practicing in the city’s squares and parks for their role in the expected mass event.

Pyongyang is always extremely sensitive to the annual US-South Korea war games, which it sees as an invasion rehearsal, and has significantly turned up the volume of its rhetoric that war could be on the horizon if it sees any signs of aggression from south of the Demilitarized Zone.

In the capital, however, there has been little sense of urgency other than that required to get ready for the big events later this week. (AP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.