SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea will convene its rubber-stamp parliament next month to discuss efforts to salvage an economy strained by pandemic border closures after decades of mismanagement and U.S.-led sanctions.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday the Supreme People’s Assembly will meet on Sept. 28 in Pyongyang to discuss economic development, youth education, government organizational matters and other issues. The report didn’t mention any plans for discussions on foreign policy.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since the collapse of a summit between former President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for a major easing of economic sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Kim has since pledged to bolster his country’s nuclear deterrent while urging his people to stay resilient in a struggle for economic self-dependence in the face of U.S. pressure.
But experts say Kim is now facing perhaps his toughest moment as he approaches a decade in rule, with North Korea maintaining a border lockdown indefinitely to keep out the coronavirus and with no prospect in sight to end international sanctions.
Meetings of the full Supreme People’s Assembly are usually brief affairs intended to approve budgets, formalize personnel changes and rubber-stamp Kim’s policy priorities.
During its previous session in January, the Assembly passed decisions made during a rare congress of the ruling Workers’ Party earlier that month where Kim vowed to strengthen his nuclear arsenal and laid out economic development plans for the next five years. The congress came months after Kim during another political conference showed unusual candor by acknowledging that his plans to improve the economy weren’t succeeding.
Despite its economic troubles, the North has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overture to resume nuclear diplomacy, saying that Washington must discard its “hostile” policies first.