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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Moving to Resume Nuclear Talks

SEOUL -- North Korea, on the verge of completing the transfer of power after President Kim Il Sung's death, Wednesday took steps to continue recent diplomatic initiatives toward the United States and South Korea.


Radio Pyongyang said North Korea would hold talks with U.S. officials next week in New York, aimed at resuming high-level negotiations in Geneva interrupted by the announcement last Saturday of Kim Il Sung's death.


"This signals to the West that North Korea is in a stable situation despite the death," said Cha Young-koo, North Korean expert at Seoul's Korea Institute for Defense Analysis.


"It also signals that Pyongyang will pursue existing policies, at least in the near term, on the nuclear question."


The Geneva dialogue, aimed at resolving a crisis over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program, opened last Friday, but were suspended the following day as soon as the death was announced.


The head of the North Korean delegation to Geneva, First Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju, is currently in Pyongyang, where official media reported that eight of every 10 citizens in the Stalinist state took part in public mourning rites.


An average of 600,000 people a day had visited the towering statue of the late Stalinist leader on Mansu Hill in the capital. More than 17.5 million of the 22 million population streamed to statues across the nation in mourning, the Korea Central News Agency said.


Radio Pyongyang, in another indication that Kim Jong Il, the eldest son and heir of the late president, was certain to succeed his father, said Tuesday night he was "at the top helm of the party, state and military."


"Under the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong-il, we will keep marching to the end to achieve self-reliant revolution and national unification," Naewoe Press, which monitors North Korean broadcasts in South Korea, quoted Radio Pyongyang as saying.


For two decades, Kim Il Sung groomed his eldest son, now 52, to succeed him. In recent years, Kim Jong Il has been officially described as being in charge of North Korea's day-to-day affairs.


A senior Seoul official said the North's leadership appeared to have finalized steps to confirm Kim Jong Il as its undisputed leader.


"All the indications point to Kim Jong Il taking up the reins of power in the North very quickly. But a formal announcement is expected after the funeral," he said.


"A smooth transfer of power in the North will brighten prospects for an inter-Korean summit," he added.


North and South Korea are also expected to resume talks later this month to arrange an unprecedented summit meeting delayed by Kim Il Sung's death, the official said.


Kim Il Sung and South Korean President Kim Young Sam had been due to meet in the North Korean capital on July 25 for a three-day summit, widely regarded as a major opportunity to end Cold War enmity which has persisted since the division of the country in 1945.


On Monday, Pyongyang notified Seoul that, following Kim's death, it wished to postpone the summit indefinitely.


Japanese journalist Kaoru Nakamaru said Tuesday she had received information from a high-ranking government official that the North wanted a new preparatory meeting Panmunjom soon after Kim's funeral.