North Korea's parliament ended a closely monitored session Thursday without promoting ailing leader Kim Jong-il's heir-apparent son to another top post.
There had been speculation that the 69-year-old leader could appoint his third son, Kim Jong-un, as a member of the powerful National Defense Commission in Thursday's session to bolster another hereditary power succession.
The session was the first since Kim named his youngest son vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Worker's Party and a four-star general last year.
Kim Jong-il took over the country with of 24 million people after his father, North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, died in 1994.
North Korea usually holds a parliamentary session one or two times a year to assess spending and accomplishments of the previous year and to approve the current year's budget.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency did not say a word about Kim Jong-un in its several dispatches on the parliamentary session.
Instead, KCNA said the rubber-stamp legislature named Ri Myong-su as minister of People's Security, which had been vacant.
It also appointed Pak To-chun as a new member of the defense commission, replacing Jon Pyong-ho, who was transferred to other unspecified post. Jon had been deeply involved in the defense affairs.
South Korean officials said Kim Jong-un not being promoted to the defense commission indicated leader Kim Jong-il's health condition is not poor. They also said the internal situation is not right for Kim to promote his son, citing the North's recent food appeals to foreign countries.
It means Kim's health "is not in an urgent state," a Unification Ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office policy.
Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul, said that Kim Jong-un not being promoted doesn't mean there is any problem in the power transfer, but it could be aimed at paving the way for stable power transition.
"The North appears to moderate its pace in handing over the power," Kim said, noting leader Kim Jong-il is still in charge.
Last year, Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, was appointed as vice chairman of the National Defense Commission in an apparent move to help smooth the power transfer.
Premier Choe Yong-rim vowed to strengthen military capabilities and improve economy and increase grain production to apparently help ease the country's chronic food shortages,
The Cabinet "will make sustained great efforts for the provision of materials needed for boosting the combat capability of the People's Army and the defense capability of the country in every way," Choe said at the session.
He said the North allocated 15.8 percent of the total state budget for national defense this year as it did last year, though he didn't give any monetary figure.
The session comes as North Korea's top nuclear envoy's arrival in Beijing coincided with a trip to Beijing by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.
First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan told reporters that he was "visiting Beijing as promised in February." He did not elaborate.
Kim and Campbell are expected to hold separate talks with their Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, on resuming international talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs and the North's uranium enrichment program.
The North told a visiting Russian nuclear envoy last month that Pyongyang was willing to discuss its uranium enrichment activity within the framework of stalled six-nation talks chaired by China.
The session also comes as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter plans to visit North Korea later this month.
It was not immediately clear whether the diplomatic troubleshooter will help ease tensions on the divided peninsula and eventually lead to the resumption of stalled talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.
The U.S. State Department has described the upcoming trip by Carter as "strictly private."
北최고인민회의, 김정은 언급없이 마쳐
김정일 부자 불참…인민보안부장에 리명수
내각 일부 교체, 국방예산비율 작년과 동일
(서울=연합뉴스) 장용훈 기자 = 북한은 7일 평양 만수대의사당에서 최고인민회 의 제12기 4차회의를 열었지만 후계자 김정은에 대한 아무런 언급 없이 회의를 마쳤 다.
이날 회의에서는 주상성 전 부장의 해임으로 공석인 인민보안부장에 리명수 국 방위원회 행정국장을 선임했다고 조선중앙통신 등 북한 매체들이 전했다.
이번 회의에는 김영남 최고인민회의 상임위원장, 최영림 내각총리 등이 참석했 으나 자강도에서 공장 현지지도와 예술공연 관람을 한 것으로 전날 보도된 김정일 국방위원장과 김정은은 불참한 것으로 확인됐다.
정부 당국자는 "김정은의 국방위 진출이 이뤄지지 않은 것은 김 위원장의 건강 이 후계승계를 다급하게 추진하지 않아도 될 만큼 급박한 상황은 아니라는 것을 의 미한다"며 "앞으로 상황에 따라 최고인민회의 추가 개최, 국방위원회 별도 결정 등 을 통해 보직을 부여할 수 있을 것"이라고 말했다.
리명수 신임 인민보안부장은 김정일 체제가 출범한 1996년부터 김 위원장의 각 급 공식활동을 수행해온 최측근 실세로, 국가안전보위부와 함께 북한의 양대 공안기 관인 인민보안부를 이끌며 김정은 후계체제 구축과정에서 핵심 역할을 할 것으로 보 인다.
회의에서는 또 북한 군수산업을 전담해온 전병호 국방위원을 해임하고 후임 위 원에 박도춘 당 비서를 선임했으며, 리태남 부총리를 '신병관계'를 이유로 해임하고 법제위원회 위원장에 장병규 최고검찰소장을 앉혔다.
박수길 부총리 겸 재정상은 예결산 보고에서 "지난해 국가예산수입이 101.3%로 초과 수행됐고 국가예산지출은 99.9%로 집행됐다. 올해는 지난해에 비해 국가예산수 입은 107.5%, 국가예산지출은 108.9%로 늘리게 된다"고 밝혔다.
국방비는 작년과 같은 15.8%로 책정하고 주요 예산지출 부문이 작년과 비슷한 가운데 기본건설 자금지출 항목이 새로 추가됐다.
통일부는 북한의 올해 예산을 5천677억원(미화 57억3천만달러)으로, 국방비는 8 79억원(9억달러)으로 추산했다.
최영림 내각 총리는 올해 과업 보고에서 주민생활 향상을 위해 경공업과 농업 발전에 주력할 것임을 밝히고 무역의 다각화를 강조했다.