N Koreans switch from tears to praise

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The Independent Online
TOKYO - Yesterday was the day the crying stopped in Pyongyang. Tuesday had seen copious - but well-marshalled - outpourings of grief during the funeral of North Korea's Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, writes Terry McCarthy. But yesterday the tears disappeared for a solemn memorial service to promote his son, Kim Jong Il, as the next supreme leader.

The entire nation of 22 million people stood silently at attention for three minutes at midday yesterday, as ships and trains sounded their sirens. But the most surprising silence of all was that of Kim Jong Il, who many had expected to deliver his father's eulogy or a speech asserting his takeover of power. Instead the 52-year- old Dear Leader, dressed in a black Mao-style suit and looking distinctly pale and ill at ease, stood on a balcony overlooking the Kim Il Sung Square in the centre of Pyongyang without uttering a word as representatives of the Communist Party and the military praised his dead father and vowed support for the son's rule.

'To uphold the leadership of the party Central Committee headed by Comrade Kim Jong Il is the way of resolutely defending and brilliantly accomplishing the revolutionary cause started by the fatherly leader,' said Kim Yong Nam, the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. 'Our soldiers will follow the will of the Great Leader and will support Kim Jong Il as the head of the nation, the party, and the people,' said Kim Kwang Jin, the Deputy Defence Minister.

Although Kim Jong Il gave no hint of how he will steer the ongoing negotiations with the US over his country's suspected nuclear weapons programme, the speakers at the service notably refrained from repeating the standard condemnations of the United States and its allies. For some this boded well for talks between the US and North Korea in Geneva on the nuclear issue, which were suspended after one day on 9 July when Kim Il Sung's death was announced. The US and North Korea are expected to meet in New York this week to discuss a date for resuming the talks.

Meanwhile Robert Gallucci, the US Assistant Secretary of State who was the chief US negotiator at Geneva, arrived yesterday in Seoul to discuss strategy over the nuclear issue with South Korean leaders. The US is impatient to get the talks restarted, and not allow Pyongyang to use the death of its President as a delaying tactic.

(Photograph omitted)