North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a politburo meeting of the Workers' Party at the headquarters of the party's Central Committee in Pyongyang on Jan. 19, 2022, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA)
North Korea stayed mum on a much-anticipated meeting of the country's rubber-stamp parliament Monday, a day after it was supposed to take place, spawning speculation the event might have been delayed.
The 6th session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) was to be held Sunday to discuss issues that included the state budget and tasks for this year, according to Pyongyang's state media, but they have yet to report on the opening of the event as of Monday morning.
The North's official media outlets, such as the Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, usually report on the outcome of such a major political event the next morning.
The parliamentary session has been a focus of attention as a potential opportunity for the outside world to get a clue on the reclusive regime's policy directions after the North conducted a barrage of missile tests last month, including the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) on Jan. 30.
During the previous SPA session held in September, the North's leader Kim Jong-un announced a decision to restore communication lines with South Korea as part of efforts to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve "durable peace" on the peninsula.
It's not the first time the North has stayed silent a day after its planned opening of such a parliamentary meeting.
In April 2020, Pyongyang announced an SPA meeting was convened two days later than it was supposed to be held, without giving any explanations on the change of schedule.
"There were cases of the Supreme People's Assembly being delayed in the past, and the North also has a record of reporting on such political events after they wrap up if they were held for multiple days," Lee Jong-joo, spokesperson for Seoul's unification ministry, told a regular press briefing. "We will continue monitoring related moves considering various possibilities."
The SPA is the highest organ of power under the North's constitution, though it rubber-stamps decisions by the ruling party.
It usually holds a plenary session in March or April to deal mainly with budget and cabinet reshuffles. But the North held an SPA session in January and another in September last year.
This month's meeting comes amid heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with the North apparently threatening to suspend its yearslong moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations with the United States.
The North's latest missile launch, which involved an IRBM, marked the country's seventh show of force this year and its longest-range missile test since the test-firing of an ICBM in November 2017. (Yonhap)