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N. Korea Sets Date for Special Party Conference

New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from left, applauds as he leaves the stands at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, Feb. 16, 2012.
New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from left, applauds as he leaves the stands at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, Feb. 16, 2012.
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North Korea announced Monday it will hold a special ruling party conference just before a controversial satellite launch set for mid-April.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the Workers' Party conference will be held on April 11 in the capital, Pyongyang.  

Analysts say the delegates are likely to appoint the country's new leader, Kim Jong Un, to the post of party general secretary, previously held by his father Kim Jong Il, who died in December.

Pyongyang says the satellite launch is part of the celebration of the 100th birthday of the late leader Kim Il Sung, the founder of the communist state and Kim Jong Un's grandfather.

The United States, Russia, South Korea, and Japan all have condemned the planned launch.  Even Pyongyang's long-time ally, China, has expressed rare disapproval, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concern."   

Ban said the missile launch, widely seen outside the North as a pretext for testing a nuclear weapons delivery system, threatens regional security.  He said it also violates a U.N. resolution prohibiting Pyongyang from using ballistic missile technology.

North Korea's parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, is set to hold its annual session on April 13.  Analysts say it is likely promote Kim Jong Un to chairman of the National Defense Commission, another post held by his father.

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