North Korea warns of 'no changes' as new supreme leader takes over


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The Independent Online

After days of an outpouring of national grief, it was back to business as usual as North Korea reaffirmed the hard-line policies of the late Kim Jong-il yesterday, with a harsh warning to "foolish politicians around the world not to expect any changes from us".

The clear message from the national defence commission, the most powerful body in the North Korean administration, was that the newly ensconced "supreme leader", Kim Jong-un, surrounded by his father's inner circle, would carry on as before.

The rhetorical broadside was aimed at North Korea's traditional foes, including the US and Japan. But South Korea's President Lee Myung bak came in for the strongest verbiage. He was denounced as the leader of a "group of traitors forever" with whom the North would have "no dealings".

Pyongyang has regularly excoriated the conservative South Korean leader ever since he ended the South's "Sunshine policy" of reconciliation and cut off all food aid to the North after his inauguration in 2008.

Mr Lee gave North Korea another reason for outrage by refusing to send a condolence delegation to bow before Kim Jong-il's body in its glass coffin. He also banned other condolence delegations except for one led by the widow of Kim Dae-jung, the late president who initiated the Sunshine policy, and the widow of the Hyundai group chairman responsible for opening up special economic and tourist zones in the North.

With Mr Lee's snubs in mind, the defence commission vowed to "surely force the group of traitors to pay for its hideous crimes committed at the time of the great national misfortune", it said in the statement.

Although the rhetoric appeared to be largely for dramatic impact, it showed how difficult it will be for North and South to engage in dialogue before the election next December for a new president in place of Mr Lee, who cannot seek a second term under the South's constitution.

The long march of Mr Kim's tallest mourner

Was it a case of computer manipulation, or Pyongyang's latest secret weapon?

The average North Korean is said, after years of malnutrition, to be three inches (7.6cm) shorter than the typical South Korean, but that is clearly not true of one mourner at Kim Jong-il's funeral.

Parading at the back of a phalanx of soldiers earlier this week, he towered above his colleagues. Or perhaps it was North Korea's 7ft 8in basketball star, Ri Myung Hun?