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Plans to select Kim’s successor postponed after floods


Latest update : 2010-09-15

North Korea’s ruling party has postponed a meeting that will launch the process of selecting Kim Jong-il’s successor. The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, is thought to have been cancelled due to deadly floods in the country.

REUTERS - South Korea said it appeared that a meeting to choose a new leadership of secretive North Korea's ruling party had not taken place on Wednesday, as scheduled, probably due to severe flooding.
The Workers' Party conference, bringing together the biggest gathering of political elite in North Korea for 30 years, had also been expected to anoint an heir to the family dynasty as Kim Jong-il's health deteriorates.
"The reason can be flooding, or there could be other reasons, but it seems there are internal affairs," South Korea's Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said.
There was no news from North Korea about the conference which had been vaguely scheduled to take place by Sept. 15, and speculation has been swirling for days in Japanese and South Korean media of a possible delay.
Japan's Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday, citing unnamed diplomatic sources in Pyongyang and Beijing, that the conference had been postponed, but it did not give reasons or a new schedule.
Pyongyang maintains a strict control over all information, and in the past has delayed reporting significant announcements for days or even weeks until after the event has actually taken place.
South Korea's YTN television quoted a source as saying diplomats in the North have said Pyongyang had postponed the meeting, and that it would now be held sometime before Oct. 10, the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party.
Kim, who is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, has reportedly accelerated succession plans, and analysts say his youngest son Kim Jong-un is being lined up for an official title at the conference.
Dozens killed in floods
Severe flooding in the North over the past two months has reportedly cut off some routes to the capital, and media reports have said recovery work is now a priority.
At the start of the month, a typhoon hit the peninsula adding to the impoverished state's woes. North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that dozens of people were killed, thousands of homes destroyed and railway tracks washed away.
Heavy rains this year have caused severe flooding and hit food production that even in a good year falls a million tonnes short of the amount needed to feed its 23 million people.
On Monday, Seoul announced its biggest aid package to the North in more than two years to assist with the flood disaster in the latest of a series of conciliatory gestures between the rivals after months of heightened tension on the peninsula.
South Korean media has also reported the conference may have been delayed by Kim's health, which possibly deteriorated following a five-day trip to China last month, or because a reshuffle of its power structure was still in the works.
Kim's health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the isolated state.
Regional powers have all been watching for clues as to how a transfer of power may proceed in the country with a military-first policy and enough fissile material for at least six to eight nuclear weapons.
With North and South still technically at war, having only signed an armistice in 1953, regional powers are anxious to know what changes are afoot and who will command the country's nearly 1.2 million troops and another 7.7 million in the reserves.
There have been barely a handful of sessions of the solemn national convention since the party's founding.
But each was a milestone in the evolution of the state from a revolutionary movement fighting Japan's colonial rule to a reclusive regime that has stoked regional tensions with armed provocations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.


Date created : 2010-09-15