[JURIST] Officials in North Korea [JURIST news archive] announced Thursday that the country would revise its constitution [text]. The announcement came during a meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) [Reuters backgrounder] attended by the country's leader, Kim Jong-Il. According to the North Korean state media outlet Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) [media website], the measure to "approve and supplement" the constitution was approved by a unanimous vote [KCNA report] of the SPA. The SPA meeting was Kim's first public appearance [BBC report] since August 2008, when he was rumored to have suffered a stroke. The decision to revise the constitution has been interpreted [Yonhap report] as a move to arrange a plan of succession for the leadership of the country.
North Korea recently launched long-range test missile [BBC report], sparking an international outcry and possible UN sanctions. The country has also come under fire for the detention and prosecution [JURIST reports] of two American journalists alleged to have illegally entered North Korea from China. North Korea has been accused of using the captured journalists as pawns [JURIST op-ed] in policy disputes with the US. North Korea has ranked [JURIST report] among the countries with the least protection for press freedoms. The North Korean regime has been the subject of considerable international pressure over its refusal to fully disclose [AP report] its past nuclear activity. The US removed North Korea [WP report] from the State Department's list of terror sponsors [text] in October after former president George W. Bush agreed [JURIST report] to the step following the communist state's handover of a report on its nuclear program to China, one of the countries participating in the so-called Six Party Talks [CFR backgrounder] on the North Korean program. In February 2007, North Korea agreed [JURIST report] to end its nuclear weapons program, shut down and seal any reactors, and completely declare the extent of its nuclear activities in exchange for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel.