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N. Korea to convene rubber-stamp parliament in April

North Korea said Friday it will convene its rubber-stamp parliament next month, amid growing speculation that its leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un may be well on his path to consolidating his power base.

The communist state's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a two-paragraph report that the Supreme People's Assembly will convene on April 7 for its fourth session since being elected.

The decision was made on Tuesday, the KCNA added.

 It is not unusual for North Korea to hold a parliamentary session in spring, a season during which the impoverished country assesses its spending for the previous year and plans its future budget.

But this year's planned session comes as Pyongyang increasingly taps into the authority of its political apparatuses to boost the power of leader Kim Jong-il's third son and justify it.

 In a Workers' Party convention held in September last year, the 20-something son, Kim Jong-un, was elected vice chairman of its Central Military Commission. He had just been unveiled to the world as a four-star military general.

   Outside analysts and officials have speculated that Kim, about whom little is known, would soon visit China, a trip likely to be considered a seal of approval for his rise by Pyongyang's top ally.

   They also say the likeliness of Kim being promoted as a member of the powerful National Defense Commission, chaired by his 69-year-old father, has increased.

   In a possible sign the North is undergoing a major restructuring of its political leadership, the country said earlier this week that it had dismissed its police chief due to health problems.

   The dismissal was unusual because in North Korea many high-ranking officials retain their posts until death.

   North Korea watchers here said the decision could be part of measures to appoint figures close to Kim Jong-un to influential posts ahead of the father-to-son power succession. (Yonhap News)

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