Seoul: North Korea on Saturday said it would hold an annual parliamentary session next month around the time of a planned rocket launch by the nuclear-armed state that has sparked widespread condemnation.
The meeting of the rubber-stamp body will also take place just two days before deceased founder Kim Il-Sung`s 100th birthday and will be the first under new leader Kim Jong-Un.
Pyongyang`s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Supreme People`s Assembly would convene on April 13. The assembly is constitutionally able to appoint the chairman of the National Defence Commission, a top military decision-making body wielding great influence over the highly militarised communist state.
It remains to be seen whether Kim Jong-Un, currently serving as vice chairman of the commission, will be promoted to the commission`s highest post held by his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December from a heart attack.
Separately, the North`s ruling communist party last month said it would convene a rare special conference in April on an unspecified date in an apparent attempt to wrap up the power transfer to the new leader.
Kim Jong-Un has been proclaimed the "great successor" but has so far been formally appointed to only one of the late Kim`s posts, commander-in-chief of the 1.2 million-member military.
The April party meeting is likely to appoint Jong-Un to his father`s old posts of party general secretary and chief of its Central Military Commission, analysts said.
North Korea announced earlier this month it would launch a rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit to celebrate the centenary of Kim Il-Sung`s birth -- move seen by the United States, South Korea and other nations as a pretext
for a long-range missile test banned by the UN.
The North yesterday said preparations "have entered a full-fledged stage of action" and promised unspecified "counter-measures" against opponents of the operation.
Amid mounting tensions, North Korea`s main ally China urged that "all parties should keep calm and exercise restraint", while a special adviser to US President Barack Obama warned any launch will generate a "strong response”.
World leaders including Obama are meeting in Seoul next week for a summit officially focused on nuclear terrorism. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon plans to raise the rocket launch at the meeting on Monday and Tuesday. (AFP)