|Dec 30, 1:44 AM EST|
North Korea vows no softening despite new leader
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea warned the world
Friday there would be no softening of its position toward South Korea's
government after Kim Jong Il's death as Pyongyang strengthened his son
and heir's authority with a new title: Great Leader.
Korea's powerful National Defense Commission said that the country
would never deal with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, a
conservative who stopped a no-strings-attached aid policy toward the
North in 2008.
The stern message also said
North Korea was uniting around Kim Jong Un, referring to him for the
first time with the title Great Leader - previously used for his father -
in a clear message of continuity. It was the latest incremental step in
a burgeoning personality cult around the son following the Dec. 17
death of Kim Jong Il.
The younger Kim on
Thursday was pronounced Supreme Leader of the ruling party, military and
people at a massive public gathering on the final day of official
mourning for his father.
The top levels of
government appear to have rallied around Kim Jong Un, who is in his late
20s, in the wake of his father's death. Still, given his inexperience
and age, there are questions outside North Korea about his leadership of
a nation engaged in delicate negotiations over its nuclear program and
grappling with decades of economic hardship and chronic food shortages.
declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around
the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect
any change from us," the National Defense Commission said. "We will
never deal with the traitor group of Lee Myung-bak."
a bellicose voice, a female news anchor for state TV read the National
Defense Commission statement, saying the "evil misdeeds" of the Lee
administration reached a peak when it prevented South Koreans from
visiting North Korea to pay respects to Kim Jong Il, except for two
delegations led by a former first lady and a business leader, both of
whose husbands had ties to North Korea.
Korea had said foreign official delegations would not be allowed at the
funeral but that it would welcome any South Koreans who wanted to travel
to pay respects to Kim.
"Even though we lost
Kim Jong Il, we have the dear respected Kim Jong Un," Kang Chol Bok, a
28-year-old officer of the Korean People's Internal Security Forces,
told The Associated Press. "We will turn our profound sorrow into
strength and courage."
The North's statement
is a warning for Seoul not to take the new leadership lightly, said Koh
Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University.
is also raising the stakes in case the South wants better relations so
Pyongyang can extract greater concessions" during any later talks, Koh
said. He added that it's "too early to say the North is dashing hopes
While blasting the South's
leader, the North also offered a bit of hope for improved ties with the
South, saying it "will continue to push hard toward the path of improved
But it added that any better ties
won't be "based on the deceitful ploys South Korea is employing by
mixing 'toughness' and 'flexibility.'" Seoul has signaled a change in
its approach toward Pyongyang in recent months, saying it will be more
flexible in dealing with the North.
Korea's Unification Ministry will maintain its North Korea policy and
not react to every statement out of Pyongyang, according to a ministry
official who declined to be identified citing the sensitivity of the
relations between the countries.
On Thursday, a
somber Kim Jong Un stood with his head bowed at the Grand People's
Study House, overlooking Kim Il Sung Square, named for his grandfather,
who founded modern North Korea. A huge crowd of mourners gathered below.
Jong Un was flanked by top party and military officials, including Kim
Jong Il's younger sister, Kim Kyong Hui, and her husband, Jang Song
Thaek, who are expected to serve as mentors of their young nephew.
father's plan is being implemented," Ralph Cossa, president of Pacific
Forum CSIS, a Hawaii-based think tank, said of the transfer of power.
"All of these guys have a vested interest in the system and a vested
interest in demonstrating stability. The last thing they want to do is
Titles are important in North Korea and part of the myth-building surrounding the Kim family legacy.
Kim Il Sung, the country's first and only president, retains the title Eternal President even after his death.
Jong Il held three main positions: chairman of the National Defense
Commission, general secretary of the Workers' Party and supreme
commander of the Korean People's Army. According to the constitution,
his position as chairman of the National Defense Commission made him
Supreme Leader of North Korea.
Kim Jong Un was
made a four-star general last year and appointed a vice chairman of the
Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party. Since his father's
death, North Korean officials and state media have given him a series of
new titles: Great Successor, Supreme Leader and now Great Leader.
Press writers Foster Klug, Scott McDonald and Sam Kim in Seoul, South
Korea, contributed to this report. Follow AP's North Korea coverage at
twitter.com/APklug and twitter.com/samkim-ap.
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