N Korea set for 'historic' talks

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  1. Rahul92

    Rahul92 Senior Member Senior Member

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    North Korea sets date for rare leadership conference

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    Kim Jong-il is believed to be in poor health

    North Korea's ruling party will hold its first conference in a generation on 28 September, state media reports say, amid speculation that leader Kim Jong-il is about to name his successor.

    The Workers Party is widely expected to promote Mr Kim's third son, Kim Jong-un, to a senior position.

    Observers believe a promotion would anoint him as the heir to his father, the self-styled Dear Leader.


    Mr Kim, 68, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008.

    The Korean Central News Agency carried a short statement early on Tuesday announcing the party meeting.

    "The conference of the WPK [Workers Party of Korea] for electing its supreme leadership body will take place in Pyongyang on 28 September," the statement said.

    The announcement ends weeks of speculation about the date of the meeting, which was originally due to take place sometime early this month.

    The news agency gave no indication of why it had been postponed.

    There has been speculation that it was delayed because of severe flooding in the north of the country, or because the health of the leader has taken another turn for the worse.
    Successor

    Kim Jong-il was promoted at a previous conference in 1980, which at the time was seen as confirmation that he would succeed his father, Kim Il-sung.

    He eventually became leader after his father's death in 1994, and has led the country into isolation from the outside world.

    In recent years Mr Kim is believed to have sought medical treatment in China, one of the country's few allies. Neither nation has confirmed details of any illnesses or treatments.

    The reclusive leader, who rarely travels abroad, last visited China in August.

    One South Korean TV station cited a South Korean official as saying Kim Jong-un had accompanied his father on the trip.

    Rumours emerged last year from the secretive state that Kim Jong-un, thought to be aged 26 or 27, was his father's chosen successor.

    Little is known of Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un, and he has never been photographed by Western media.


    Analysis

    Finally, we have confirmation of a date for the meeting that North Korea has been calling "historic" and "a turning point".

    So, next Tuesday, all eyes will be on one young man - Kim Jong-un, widely believed to be the favourite to take over from his father, but about whom very little is known in the outside world.

    It's unlikely to look like much of a coronation, but if he is elevated to a senior party position it will be a clear signal that a successor has been chosen.

    How easy it will be for a young, inexperienced third-generation heir to gain the confidence of the military and other powerful leading figures is another matter.


    Who will succeed N Korea's Kim Jong-il?


    Until now, there has been almost a complete absence of reliable intelligence about who will succeed North Korea's "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il

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    Kim Jong-il, left, "inherited" power from his father Kim Il-sung

    The question has become more pressing amid indications that the 66-year-old has been seriously ill, and in recent days there has been a spate of reports which suggest the question is now being addressed in Pyongyang.

    But the confusion continues, with the unnamed intelligence sources variously suggesting that the mantle will be passed down to Kim's eldest son, youngest son, or even brother-in-law.

    The last succession was settled 20 years before the death of the Great Leader Kim Il-sung in 1994, and publicly announced at a party congress in 1980.

    Kim's failure until now clearly to anoint a successor may indicate divisions within the North Korean elite; or it may suggest that the leadership is trying to avoid "lame duck" syndrome, whereby Kim Jong-il's authority is diluted by the emergence of his successor while he remains at the helm.

    But the identity of Mr Kim's successor will be key in deciding the future direction of the North Korean state - whether it adopts market reforms and a degree of political openness, or attempts to reassert absolute control over all aspects of the economy and populace.

    It will fundamentally affect the durability of the North Korean leadership, say analysts.

    Single or collective leadership?

    The form of the new leadership is also of interest to observers.

    Will a single strongman (it is unlikely to be a woman) emerge, "inheriting" his authority from the Great Leader as did Kim Jong-il? Or will the elite conclude - as some scholars argue - that too many "great" or "dear" leaders end up undermining North Korean ideology, which confers a sun-like centrality on the eternal President Kim Il-sung, and that a collective leadership council is preferable?

    There are three centres of power in the North Korean elite: the Kim family, the military and the party leadership.

    THE KIM FAMILY

    Were there to be another hereditary transfer of power, the obvious contenders would be Kim Jong-il's sons: Kim Jong-nam, 37, Kim Jong-chol, thought to be 27, and Kim Jong-un, about 25.

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    Eldest son Kim Jong-nam was thought to have embarrassed his father


    But such a choice would not be without problems - for one thing, his sons were born to two different women, neither of whom was officially married to Mr Kim.

    As the eldest, Jong-nam would be the logical choice. He was thought to have fallen from favour in 2001 when he made an ill-fated attempt to enter Japan on a false passport, but his name has resurfaced in recent reports.

    The middle son, Jong-chul, is reported to have accompanied his father on official trips and been the subject of glowing party propaganda - but his name has not come up in the renewed speculation.

    Much recent attention has focused on Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, thought to be the favourite of his father. His youth had been seen as problematic, given Korean traditions of seniority.

    None of Kim Jong-il's sons has been painstakingly groomed for the leadership in the same way as he was himself. If one of his sons is chosen, he might be more of a figurehead than the real decision-maker.

    Mr Kim has daughters, but given the patriarchal nature of Korean society, they are unlikely to be in the running for the leadership.

    THE MILITARY

    Since the mid-1990s and the "military-first" policy adopted amid economic crisis and famine, the North Korean military has become elevated within government and society at large.

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    Leading lights in the N Korean political firmament attended a recent funeral

    Many of the possible candidates for the leadership - perhaps a collective leadership - within the North Korean military are in the National Defence Commission (NDC), a body of 10 men, mostly of military rank, at the pinnacle of the North Korean elite.

    Jo Myong-rok is first vice chairman of the NDC. He is also Kim Jong-il's second in command in the military - but he is 84 years old and believed to be in poor health.

    Gen Hyon Chol-hae, 74, is deputy director of the General Political Department of the KPA (army), and according to one study in past months is thought to be one of Kim Jong-il's most frequent companions. This impression of close proximity to the North Korean leader was underlined by Gen Hyon's presence on the leaders' platform during recent celebrations for the 60th anniversary of North Korea's foundation. During the 1950-53 Korean war, he was Kim Il-sung's bodyguard, so he can also boast a place in North Korea's revolutionary history.

    Ri Myong-su, 71, is the director of the administrative department of the NDC. He is said to have close links with Kim Jong-il going back to the 1970s, and to have been one of his most frequent companions in recent years. Both he and Hyon Chol-hae are said to report directly to Kim Jong-il.

    O Kuk-ryol was highlighted as a Kim loyalist and rising star by a South Korean intelligence report in 2006. A member of the "1980 group" (rapidly promoted following the 1980 party congress, on the instructions of Kim Il-sung), he is said to have acted as Kim Jong-il's trusted eyes and ears within the armed forces and security apparatus. O later fell from favour, was "purged" but then rehabilitated.

    THE PARTY

    Kim Yong-nam, 80, is head of the North Korean parliament's leadership council and a member of the politburo. He is nominally the country's head of state and ranked second only to Kim Jong-il in leadership lists put together by scholars.

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    Kim Yong-nam is a leading member of the elite, but unlikely to take sole control

    However, according to some commentators, his relatively low profile in North Korean revolutionary mythology makes him an unlikely contender for the top job.

    Chang Song-taek, 62, is the husband of Kim Jong-il's sister and until early 2003 was thought to have been one of the Dear Leader's closest confidants. He was once described by high-profile defector Hwang Jong-yop as "the number-two man in North Korea".

    In 2003 Mr Chang fell from grace - having reportedly gathered too much influence - and he was "purged" and sent for re-education. But he has now been rehabilitated and brought back to prominence in the administrative department of the Workers' Party - and one recent report suggested he would be the real power behind a leadership nominally headed by one of Kim Jong-il's sons. He also enjoys the advantage of supporters in several key posts, reports say.

    According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Mr Chang may also have pressed the claim of his adopted son, Kim Jang-hyun - in reality a son of Kim Il-sung by one of his nurses, now in his mid-30s.

    Other contenders from within the Party structures might include defence minister Kim Il-chol, Choe Thae-bok, or Jon Pyong-ho.
     
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  3. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    Two Koreas set for first military talks since 2008

    by Staff Writers
    Seoul (AFP) Sept 30, 2010
    South and North Korea are Thursday to hold their first military talks for two years in an attempt to ease tensions heightened by a naval disaster near their disputed sea border.

    Three officers from each side will meet at the border truce village of Panmunjom at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) after the North accepted the South's revised date for the meeting.

    The North had proposed holding the military talks on September 24 to discuss the Yellow Sea border and anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated across the border by activists.

    The South suggested Thursday and said the agenda should include the North's alleged responsibility for the deadly sinking of one of Seoul's warships.

    "At talks tomorrow, we will focus on the warship sinking and tensions along the sea border, while demanding North Korea stop slandering our side," a defence ministry spokesman in Seoul told AFP Wednesday.

    Relations have been frosty since a conservative government took office in Seoul in February 2008 and conditioned major assistance on progress in the North's nuclear disarmament.

    Ties worsened dramatically after the South accused the North of torpedoing the corvette in March with the loss of 46 lives.

    The North denied involvement and threatened retaliation for a series of naval exercises staged south of the border as a show of strength.

    A joint US-South Korean anti-submarine drill is under way this week.

    But the North has this month made apparently conciliatory gestures as it prepares for an eventual power transfer from its leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son Jong-Un.

    The son was this week appointed a four-star general and given two powerful posts in the ruling party.

    "In order to stabilise the succession plan, the North must ease economic difficulties and for this purpose improving ties with the outside world is essential," Koh Yu-Hwan, of Seoul's Dongguk University, told AFP.

    The North this month returned a detained South Korean fishing boat and seven crew, accepted flood aid from its neighbour and proposed a resumption of reunions for separated families.

    The South accuses the North of exploiting the humanitarian reunions programme to try to force a resumption of commercial cross-border tours to a jointly run resort at Mount Kumgang.

    The two sides are set to meet Friday to try to narrow differences on that issue.

    The Yellow Sea border is the major flashpoint between the two sides and was the scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and last November. It was drawn unilaterally by UN forces at the end of the 1950-53 war but the North insists it should run further to the south.

    The South says the line has been in place for more than half a century. It also says it has no legal power to stop activists launching balloons across the border, carrying tens of thousands of leaflets.

    The South says part of a North Korean torpedo which was dredged from the seabed proves its neighbour's involvement in the warship sinking.

    It has rejected the North's consistent demand to send a team to inspect the evidence and the scene of the tragedy.
     

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