Pyongyang mum on rare meeting

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Pyongyang mum on rare meeting

Secretive North Korea kept the world guessing yesterday on when it will launch a rare top-level Workers’ Party meeting expected to pave the way for eventual leadership succession.

The nation’s most important political gathering in 30 years might have even begun already, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said, noting that Pyongyang’s official media sometimes report such events only when they conclude.

In an announcement in June of the planned delegates’ conference, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said only that it would meet early in September to elect the party’s “highest leading body.”

No date has been announced, although a senior official of a pro-Pyongyang association in Japan was quoted as saying Wednesday that the event is “just around the corner.”

The meeting is widely expected to prepare for an eventual power transfer from ailing 68-year-old leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son Jong-un.

Analysts said the conference would likely place prominent supporters of the son, such as Kim Jong-Il’s brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek, in top party positions.

But Jong-un was thought unlikely at this stage to emerge from the shadows and might not be given a top party post.

It seemed to be business as usual Friday for leader Kim. The KCNA said he sent a message of greetings to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his 45th birthday. Like Kim, Assad succeeded his own father.

The agency also said Kim enjoyed a concert by the Unhasu Orchestra to mark the 62nd anniversary of North Korea’s founding.

Little is known about the Swiss-educated Jong-un, believed to be 27 years old. No photo of him as an adult has been seen outside the North.

The North’s propaganda organs have been hinting of his status as successor by spreading songs and poems, without directly naming the son.

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