- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) - North Korea said Friday that its newly elected parliament will convene April 9 _ just after the country’s planned satellite launch that has sharply raised regional tensions.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported the timing in a brief dispatch from Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who is believed to have suffered a stroke last year, was unanimously re-elected to a seat on the legislative Supreme People’s Assembly in elections March 8.

North Korea said last week that it plans to launch a communications satellite some time from April 4 to April 8. Doubts, however, persist about Pyongyang’s true intentions with countries including the United States, Japan and South Korea expressing concerns that it is more interested in testing its advanced missile technology.

Koh Yu-kwan of South Korea’s Dongguk University said the rocket launch was intended as a celebration of Kim’s third term as head of the National Defense Commission and would let the outside world know about the isolated country’s aspirations.

The launch is intended to “show the international community that it is the beginning of North Korea’s plan to build a prosperous and powerful nation,” he said.

North Korea has vowed to achieve such status by 2012 _ the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, the country’s founder and late father of current leader Kim Jong Il.

North Korea’s launch plans have particularly angered Japan, over whose territory a rocket is likely to fly. The country’s defense minister said Thursday that it may move Patriot missiles to its northern coast for protection in case the launch fails.

The Supreme People’s Assembly meets only a few times a year to pass bills vetted by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, which Kim heads. The 67-year-old leader is also supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army and chairman of the National Defense Commission.

The new assembly is expected to reconfirm Kim as leader in his capacity as chairman of the all-powerful commission.

KCNA said the decision on when to convene the assembly was taken March 16 by the body’s presidium.

North Korea usually holds a parliamentary election every five years. The one before last month’s took place in August 2003. The country failed, however, to hold one last year that was due around the time Kim apparently fell ill.

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