Extraordinary SPA Session Announced

Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) has reported that the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the country’s rubber stamp legislature, will convene for an unexpected second session this year.

In a statement today, KCNA announced, “The decision of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly on summoning the SPA was announced on the 17th. According to the decision, the third meeting of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly is hereby summoned on June 7th in Pyongyang.” However, the KCNA made no mention of an agenda for the meeting.

The SPA previously convened on April 9th. In the meeting, budgets and the revision of some provisions of the constitution were approved.

Since the April 9th SPA meeting, however, Kim Jong Il has made one of his rare overseas trips, visiting China in early May, and the suspicion of responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan has come to point squarely at North Korea.

Yet, the SPA is normally only convened on an annual basis for purposes such as approving budgets and laws, and revising the constitution. Since 1998, when the first meeting of the 10th SPA was held, it has been held just once a year, with the exception of 2003. Therefore, this extraordinary session is extremely unusual.

As a result, the presumption among experts and government officials is that there will be some significant tasks on the agenda, and that Kim Jong Il himself is likely to be in attendance to oversee it.

Accordingly the South’s authorities will be paying it close attention. An official from inside the administration concurred, saying, “It is to be held while inter-Korean relations are in a bad situation due to the Cheonan incident, so we will observe closely the process and results of the third meeting.”

The SPA is supposed to deal with electing major officials in addition to approving laws and deciding budgets, so one guess is that the extraordinary session may be related National Defense Commission personnel. Especially, there is the possibility that the succession system may go public with the appearance of Kim Jong Eun on the National Defense Commission.

With the removal of First Vice-Director of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Il Cheol earlier this month, there is certainly room for movement in the ageing North Korean leadership structure.

Korean National Defense University’s Professor Kim Yeon Su agreed, saying in a telephone interview with The Daily NK, “The SPA has the authority to reorganize the National Defense Commission, so there may well be a decision on the composition of the Commission.”

Additionally, the range of difficult issues facing North Korea is likely to get broader once the findings of the Cheonan sinking investigation team are announced, possibly as soon as the end of this week. Thereafter, the North may be planning to use the SPA meeting to move toward a harder policy position.

According to Professor Kim, “Given predictions that sanctions against North Korea will be strengthened, the North may want to emphasize and reinforce the Military-first Policy via the SPA meeting.”