Kim Jong Il moves closer to taking full control in N Korea

KIM JONG IL moved one step closer to taking total power in North Korea yesterday as the state radio referred to him as head of state. An official announcement on his appointment is expected to be made after the funeral on Sunday of his father, Kim Il Sung, who died last Friday after 46 years as North Korea's 'Great Leader'.

Radio Pyongyang acknowledged Kim Jong Il as being 'at the top helm of the party, state and military'. Under his leadership, said the radio, 'we will keep marching to the end to achieve juche (self-reliance) revolution and national unification'.

In Peking, the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Peng, yesterday called Kim Jong Il the 'new leader', an appellation that for China confirms him as Kim Il Sung's successor.

In a separate broadcast, Radio Pyongyang confirmed North Korea would hold talks with the US next week in New York to arrange for a resumption of the nuclear talks that were suspended after one day because of Kim Il Sung's death. The US, whose President, Bill Clinton, has said North Korea 'cannot be permitted to possess nuclear weapons', has been trying to coax Pyongyang away from its suspected nuclear weapons programme by offerring in exchange economic aid and diplomatic recognition.

Kang Sok Ju, First Deputy Foreign Minister and the main North Korean delegate at the nuclear talks with the US, which were being held in Geneva, has returned to Pyongyang for Kim Il Sung's funeral.

His US counterpart at the talks, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci, said he had been reassured by Mr Kang that the North would continue to freeze its nuclear programme. Mr Gallucci said any evidence that North Korea had begun to extract plutonium from spent fuel rods in cooling ponds would make Washington call off the talks.

Already 17.5 million of North Korea's 22 million citizens have taken part in public mourning rites for Kim Il Sung, according to Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency.

According to the country's myth-makers, North Korea's highest and most sacred peak, Paektu, shook when Kim Il Sung died, and fierce winds were whipped up at his son and heir's birthplace. The news agency said Kim's death had whipped up a lake and churned out winds and rain upon the 2,750m (9,000ft) Paektu, reflecting the sorrow of the 70 million Koreans on the divided peninsula. The peak, which borders China, is also purportedly revered by the 22 million North Koreans as the birthplace of Kim Jong Il.

(Photograph omitted)

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