By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) - North Korea announced Thursday that it will convene a session of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) on June 29, triggering speculation in South Korea over the purpose of the unexpected move.
The North usually holds a plenary session of its rubber-stamp parliament in April, but this year the country was consumed by preparations for a first Workers' Party Congress in nearly four decades
While the assembly is not considered a forum for political innovation, Seoul analysts are expecting it to be a significant platform for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who was named Workers' Party chairman during last month's congress.
A South Korean government official was quoted by local news agency Yonhap as saying, "The SPA meeting will approve the decisions of the party congress and pave the way for Kim's prolonged one-man rule."
If the assembly confirms Pyongyang's stated focus on economic and nuclear development, it may also serve as an occasion for further provocations.
The North was hit with strengthened United Nations sanctions following its fourth ever nuclear test in January and has since attempted numerous ballistic missile tests.
Onlookers had anticipated a fifth nuclear test as a statement in line with the congress, but North Korea stayed fairly quiet on that front for most of May.
Tensions have been building again on the peninsula with Seoul rejecting what it sees as insincere requests for dialogue and cooperation from its northern neighbor.
In addition to the Supreme People's Assembly announcement, Pyongyang's state media also warned Thursday that North Korea would be "merciless" in its response to alleged recent incursions by South Korean vessels and drones.