March 21, 2018 / 9:48 PM / 6 months ago

North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament to meet in April ahead of inter-Korean summit

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, the isolated state’s rubber-stamp parliament, will hold a meeting on April 11, the North’s state media said on Thursday, just weeks before an historic summit between North and South Korea.

The decision to hold the rare meeting, which will be the first this year, was made by the assembly’s presidium on March 15, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report said without elaborating.

The North’s parliament usually serves to approve decisions on issues such as governing structures and budgets that have been created by the state’s powerful Workers’ Party, members of which form the vast majority of the assembly.

Next month’s assembly will come against a backdrop of diplomatic activity taking place to engage North Korea and as South Korean officials prepare for the inter-Korean summit later in April.

That summit will precede a possible meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un slated for the following month.

“The April assemblies are regular meetings where North Korea makes decisions on key state projects,” said Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

“This time, we’re looking at inter-Korean summits and the U.S.-North Korea summit, so there may be some measures or speeches linked to those but we’ll have to see,” Koh said.

Choi Dae-seok, professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University, said the North’s parliament may address economic issues, as it usually does in the spring months, more than denuclearisation or inter-Korean relations.

Kim and Trump are due to meet in May after South Korean officials relayed a message from Pyongyang that the North Korean leader wished to speak to Trump about denuclearisation.

The detente with the North, which began in January, came after a year in which Pyongyang staged several missile launches and its biggest-ever nuclear test. That was accompanied by an exchange of insults and threats between Kim and Trump that fuelled tensions even further.

The Supreme People’s Assembly convenes once or twice a year for day-long meetings. Its previous meeting was in April last year, when it announced the formation of a diplomatic commission aimed at improving international relations.

It was not specified in Thursday’s KCNA report whether Kim would attend the summit in April.

Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and James Dalgleish

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