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Kim’s domestic moves watched

Analysts wonder if a parliamentary meeting will be called soon
Mar 13,2018
Nearly a week has passed since President Moon Jae-in’s special envoys, upon their return from meeting Kim Jong-un, said North Korea’s leader was willing to talk about denuclearization, a possibly pivotal moment.

South Korea’s media went to town on the news, as did the American press last Thursday, when President Donald Trump agreed to meet with Kim by May.

But North Korea’s media, which is completely controlled by the regime, has so far reported none of these recent developments, which is not a surprise after decades of propaganda stressing the importance of nuclear force, according to local analysts.

With only weeks left before the first summit between Moon and Kim, the third inter-Korean summit ever held, South Korean government officials say that this could be an early litmus test of North Korea’s sincerity about ever dismantling its nuclear arsenal. A big clue could come next month, especially if Pyongyang decides to convene a parliamentary meeting before the Kim-Moon summit.

Since Kim rose to power following his father’s death in December 2011, North Korea held eight parliamentary meetings in total, once or twice each year. In April 2012, just two months after the regime carried out its third nuclear experiment, North Korea revised its Constitution to proclaim itself a nuclear state, sending jitters across the world as Kim exhibited an unshakeable intent to be a nuclear power.

Last December, Kim announced in a military conference that the North finally mastered its nuclear force. Whether or not Pyongyang changes its Constitution to claim that mastery, or ignores it for the sake of South Korea and the United States, will be closely monitored, said local government sources.

“The North might hold a parliamentary meeting next month,” said an official from the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, “but the country has yet to issue any pre-notices, which usually come 20 days in advance of the convention.”

Nam Seong-wook, head of Korea University’s Graduate School of Public Administration, said Kim could be weighing several options on how to reflect the recent denuclearization talks in the Constitution, given that the leader has recently taken bold steps “beyond our imagination.”

Jung Chang-hyun, a North Korea expert who heads a modern history research center, analyzed that Pyongyang might delay its parliamentary meeting until after Kim meets Moon and Trump.

“The North might reflect the outcomes of the South-North and North-U.S. summit meetings in its parliamentary convention,” said Jung. In this case, “there’s a high chance the regime would plan its course of actions after seeing how willing Washington is to improve North-U.S. relations.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]