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North Korea

Kim Jong-Un, the young North Korean leader, has been given two posts previous occupied by his late father, KimJong-Il.

Kim Jong-Un had been named chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission and a standing member of the Politburo, according to the state media.

The announcement came after North Korea held a rare party conference widely expected to see more power formally transferred to Kim Jong-Un.

The country is due to launch a rocket, set to go between Thursday and Monday.

North Korea says the rocket will put a satellite into orbit but the US says the launch is a disguised test of long-range missile technology.

The launch path will take the rocket south between the Philippines and Japan. Both South Korea and Japan have said that they will shoot it down if it threatens their territory.

Kim Jong-Un had been named chairman of the party's Central Military Commission and a standing member of the Politburo

Kim Jong-Un had been named chairman of the party's Central Military Commission and a standing member of the Politburo

The news of Kim Jong-Un’s new titles came after the ruling Korean Workers’ Party held a conference on Wednesday.

North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament is also meeting on Friday and the two meetings have been seen as forums for advancing the transition of power to Kim Jong-Un following the death of his father in December 2011.

Then on Sunday North Korea will mark the 100th anniversary of the birthday of national founder Kim Il-Sung – the grandfather of Kim Jong-Un – with mass celebrations.

North Korea says that the rocket launch is to commemorate Kim Il-Sung. It says that the satellite will send back weather and other data.

But critics say that the launch constitutes a test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

The rocket is due to launch any day between 12 and 16 April from the Tongchang-Ri site on the country’s north-west coast.

A number of airlines have altered flight paths and the US has sent a ship-mounted radar to monitor the launch.

Japan said it was on alert ahead of the launch. “We want to be fully prepared for any possible contingency,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said.

Pyongyang agreed in February to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid. But that deal was put on hold last month after the North announced its rocket launch plans.

 

A Pyongyang official has announced that North Korea is poised to complete preparations for its rocket launch scheduled for later this week.

A satellite will be installed on the Unha-3 rocket by the end of Tuesday, the official told foreign journalists in a rare press conference.

The official dismissed concerns that the launch was a cover for developing missile technology as “nonsense”.

Three Asian airlines have made changes to flight paths to avoid the rocket.

“We are expecting to complete assembly by today,” said Ryu Kum-Chol, deputy director of the space development department at the Committee of Space Technology.

North Korea is poised to complete preparations for its rocket launch scheduled for later this week

North Korea is poised to complete preparations for its rocket launch scheduled for later this week

Ryu Kum-Chol said the launch was part of the peaceful development of North Korea’s space programme.

North Korea also says it will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of its late leader Kim Il-Sung.

But opponents of the move fear it is a disguised test of long-range missile technology.

The Philippine Airlines, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have announced changes to the flight paths several affected routes ahead of the launch period between 12-16 April.

 

North Korea has made the arrangements to put into position a long-range rocket for a controversial launch next week – amid reports it is also planning a nuclear test.

Pyongyang says the Unha-3 rocket, which it plans to launch between 12 and 16 April, will put a satellite into orbit.

But opponents of the move fear it is a disguised long-range missile test.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials say new satellite images suggest the North is preparing to carry out a third nuclear test.

North Korea has made the arrangements to put into position a long-range rocket for a controversial launch next week

North Korea has made the arrangements to put into position a long-range rocket for a controversial launch next week

The images show piles of earth and sand at the entrance of a tunnel at the Punggye-Ri site, where tests of a nuclear bomb were previously carried out in 2006 and 2009, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

“Recent satellite images led us to conclude the North has been secretly digging a new underground tunnel in the nuclear test site… besides two others where the previous tests were conducted,” one unnamed official told the AFP news agency.

North Korea has been under close scrutiny by its neighbors and the international community since Kim Jong-Un became leader of the secretive state following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in December 2011.

Pyongyang had agreed in February to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid. But the deal was put on hold last month after the North announced its rocket launch plans.

Foreign journalists were taken by train to the Sohae satellite station at Tongchang-Ri, on the country’s north-west coast, to see for themselves the final preparations for the rocket launch.

All three stages of the rocket were visibly in position at the launch pad, an Associated Press reporter said from the scene.

Station manager Jang Myong-Jim told reporters that preparations were on track and fueling would begin soon, without giving exact timings.

Jang Myong-Jim said the 100 kg (220 pound) satellite is designed to send back images and information that will be used for weather forecasts as well as surveys of North Korea’s natural resources, the AP reports.

Pyongyang has previously said the launch, for “peaceful purposes”, is to mark the centennial of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

But the United States and North Korea’s neighbors say it contravenes UN resolutions that were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009.

Japan and South Korea have warned they will shoot the rocket down if it strays into their territory.

 

Japan announces that will shoot down a North Korean rocket if necessary, as new satellite images appeared to show preparations for the April launch.

Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka issued the order to intercept the rocket if it threatened Japan’s territory.

Pyongyang says it will launch a satellite on a rocket between 12 and 16 April.

Satellite images taken on Wednesday indicate that work at the launch site is under way, says a US university.

Naoki Tanaka had issued an earlier order on Tuesday to the country’s defense forces to prepare ”destruction measures against ballistic missiles”.

On Friday, he told reporters in Tokyo that he had received cabinet approval to shoot down the rocket if necessary.

Japan began preparing missile defense systems last week.

Pyongyang said it plans to fire a rocket to put a satellite into orbit next month to mark the centennial of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

The move has sparked international criticism. North Korea claims the launch is for scientific research and ”peaceful purposes”.

But the United States and North Korea’s neighbors insist it will be a disguised long-range missile test, contravening UN resolutions.

The resolutions were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as the last North Korean rocket was launched over the north of the country.

Japan announces that will shoot down a North Korean rocket if necessary, as new satellite images appeared to show preparations for the April launch

Japan announces that will shoot down a North Korean rocket if necessary, as new satellite images appeared to show preparations for the April launch

It is thought that the North Korean rocket will follow a new southern trajectory instead of a route to the east over Japan. It will now pass close to south-western Japan instead.

South Korea also warned earlier this week that it might shoot down any North Korean rocket that strayed into its territory.

US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell over the weekend said that the rocket may affect an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed concern that rocket debris may fall on Philippine territory, and called on Pyongyang to abandon the launch.

US media reports say that the US is sending its sea-based X-band radar – a radar system that sits atop a floating platform – out into the Pacific to monitor the launch. Officials have confirmed the craft left Hawaii on 23 March.

The controversial launch also comes only weeks after North Korea agreed to return to talks on its nuclear programme in return for food aid from the US – a deal which is now on hold.

At the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul earlier this week, President Barack Obama warned Pyongyang that its planned launch would only increase its isolation and lead to further sanctions.

The new satellite images, taken by a private US firm, DigitalGlobe, show that preparations are proceeding at the Tongchang-dong launch site in North Korea.

An analysis published on the 38 North website by the US-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) said that ”activity has been ongoing” at the site since last week.

”Unless some major setback occurs, the North Koreans will be able to launch during the declared launch window starting 12 April 2012,” said the article by the institute at the Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, South Korean media is reporting that the North fired two short-range missiles, believed to be surface-to-ship missiles, on Thursday.

The test firing of the KN-01 missiles took place off the west coast in North Pyongan Province, the newspapers reported on Friday, citing military sources in South Korea.

The incident did not appear to be related to the upcoming rocket launch, the sources said.

Military officers believed that the move was a warning by Pyongyang to South Korean and US military, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

 

The United States has confirmed the decision to put on hold planned food aid to North Korea.

The decision comes after Pyongyang announced a new rocket launch, which the US says breaks the terms of a deal agreed last month.

Earlier reports that the food aid plans had been suspended were confirmed by a Pentagon official on Wednesday.

Peter Lavoy told lawmakers North Korea had violated a missile test moratorium agreement and could not be trusted to deliver the aid properly.

Under the deal signed in February, North Korea agreed to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid.

Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, told a government committee that next month’s planned rocket launch “reflects [North Korea’s] lack of desire to follow through on their international commitments and so we’ve been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance”.

The United States has confirmed the decision to put on hold planned food aid to North Korea

The United States has confirmed the decision to put on hold planned food aid to North Korea

North Korea claims the launch – which is scheduled for between April 12-16 – is only a satellite and is for scientific purposes.

But the US and North Korea’s neighbors insist it will be a long-range missile test, breaking the terms of last month’s agreement.

The US has not delivered food aid to North Korea since 2009, but sent officials to Pyongyang’s ally China earlier this month to finalize plans to re-start food deliveries.

North Korea has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

The planned 240,000 tons of food aid from the US was to go to children and pregnant women.

 

Almost 60 leaders from around the world attending 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit have called for closer co-operation to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said nuclear terrorism remained a “grave threat”, while US President Barack Obama said action was key.

Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the group to work together on the issue.

The meeting has so far been dominated by North Korea’s plan to launch a rocket next month.

North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite. The US says any launch would violate UN resolutions and constitute a missile test.

Iran’s nuclear programme was also on the minds of the summit participants, with Barack Obama pledging to meet the leaders of Russia and China on the sidelines to work towards a resolution.

Almost 60 leaders from around the world attending 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit have called for closer co-operation to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism

Almost 60 leaders from around the world attending 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit have called for closer co-operation to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism

At the summit, world leaders are discussing measures to fight the threat of nuclear terrorism, including the protection of nuclear materials and facilities, as well as the prevention of trafficking of nuclear materials.

There are currently no binding international agreements on how to protect nuclear material stored peacefully inside its home country. An amendment seeking to do that is still unratified after seven years.

Addressing the summit, Barack Obama warned there were still “too many bad actors” who were threatening to stockpile and use ”dangerous” nuclear material.

“It would not take much, just a handful or so of these materials, to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and that’s not an exaggeration, that’s the reality that we face,” Barack Obama said.

“The security of the world depends on the actions that we take.”

Hu Jintao called for “an international environment conducive to boosting nuclear security” to be created and Lee Myung-Bak called for concrete action to tackle a threat that posed “a grave challenge” to peace.

The summit, attending by almost 60 leaders from around the world, is due to issue a communiqué later in the day.

Meetings on Monday were overshadowed by North Korea’s planned launch, scheduled to take place between 12 and 16 April.

Pyongyang says it is intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

On Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said that the launch will go ahead as planned and criticized Barack Obama’s stance as ”confrontational”.

North Korea ”will never give up the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes”’, the spokesman said in a statement in the official KCNA news agency.

A report by the KCNA also described the ”weather satellite” Pyongyang planned to launch as useful for ”the study of weather forecast needed for agriculture and other economic fields”.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking at the summit, called on Pyongyang to cancel the rocket launch, saying that it would violate UN Security Council resolutions.

“As such, the international community strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and cancel the launch,” Yoshihiko Noda said.

The resolutions were passed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as that rocket was launched over the country three years ago.

The US and Chinese presidents met on Monday on the sidelines of the summit and agreed to co-ordinate their response to any “potential provocation” if Pyongyang went ahead with the launch.

South Korea and the US say North Korea risks further sanctions and isolation if it does not cancel its plans. Seoul has also warned it will shoot down the rocket if it strays over South Korean territory.

Addressing Iran, Barack Obama said on Monday that there was still time to resolve the impasse over its nuclear programme through diplomacy.

“But time is short,” Barack Obama warned.

”Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands.”

Iran insists there is no military element to its programme but Western powers fear it is constructing nuclear weapons.

Nuclear stockpiles in numbers

• Russia: 10,000

• US: 8,500

• France: 300

• China: 240

• UK: 225

• Pakistan: 90-110

• India: 80-100

• Israel: 80

• North Korea: fewer than 10

Source: Federation of American Scientists

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Speaking ahead of Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, which aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism, US President Barack Obama says he is pushing for “a world without nuclear weapons”, making direct appeals to North Korea and Iran.

Barack Obama also pledged to work with Russia and China.

He emphasized the US’s unique position to seek change but said “serious sustained global effort” was needed.

The meeting is being attended by representatives from some 50 countries.

Speaking to students at Hankuk University, Barack Obama reiterated the commitment of the US as ”the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons” to reducing its nuclear arms stockpile.

The US president also spoke, he said, as a father who did not want to see his daughters growing up in a world with nuclear threats, a comment which drew applause from his student audience.

Barack Obama said he was looking forward to meeting newly-elected Russian President Vladimir Putin in May to discuss further nuclear arms cuts.

He would seek to follow on from the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) pact he struck in 2010 with outgoing Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, he said.

The New START deal agreed between Washington and Moscow was intended to replace its lapsed predecessor, START.

It trims US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads – a cut of about 30% from a limit set previously.

The treaty would also allow each side visually to inspect the other’s nuclear capability, with the aim of verifying how many warheads each missile carries.

In addition, there will be legally binding limits on the number of warheads and missiles that can be deployed on land, on submarines, and on bombers, at any one time.

President Barack Obama said he is pushing for "a world without nuclear weapons" ahead of Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

President Barack Obama said he is pushing for "a world without nuclear weapons" ahead of Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

In Asia, Barack Obama said, the US has invited China to work with Washington and ”that offer remains open”.

The US president also addressed North Korea’s nuclear ambitions directly in his speech, saying that the US has ”no hostile intent” towards the country, but ”there will be no rewards for provocation”.

Barack Obama warned Pyongyang that its planned long-range missile launch would only increase its isolation.

Pyongyang says it is preparing to launch a long-range missile which it says will put a satellite in orbit.

”You can continue with the road you are on but we know where that leads,” Barack Obama said, addressing the North Korean leaders directly.

”Today, we say: Pyongyang, have the courage to pursue peace.”

Earlier, Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said North Korea risked further sanctions and isolation if it did not cancel its launch plans.

The launch will contravene an agreement Pyongyang reached last month which would have seen it receive food aid in exchange for a partial freeze on nuclear activities and an end to ballistics tests.

The North also agreed to allow UN inspectors in, the US said.

The invitation comes three months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.

The North said the launch – between 12 and 16 April – would mark the 100th birthday of former leader Kim Il-Sung.

South Korea has warned it will shoot down the rocket if it strays over its territory.

“We are preparing measures to track the missile’s trajectory and shoot it down if it, by any chance, deviates from the planned route and falls into our territory,” a defense ministry spokesman said.

The launch site is in north-western North Korea, not far from the Chinese border.

Addressing Iran, Barack Obama said there was still time to resolve the impasse over its nuclear programme through diplomacy.

“But time is short,” Barack Obama warned.

”Iran must act with the seriousness and sense of urgency that this moment demands.”

Iran insists there is no military element to its programme but Western powers fear it is constructing nuclear weapons.

“Today, I’ll meet with the leaders of Russia and China as we work to achieve a resolution in which Iran fulfils its obligations,” Barack Obama added.

Despite lofty announcements it may prove difficult to achieve significant progress at the summit.

The summit agenda is to be expanded to include a wide variety of radiological materials which terrorists could use to make a dirty bomb – one that spreads radiological contamination rather than initiating a nuclear explosion

But experts say there is unlikely to be agreement on converting all nuclear power stations to use low-enriched fuel.

Nor will there be agreement on common standards for nuclear security.

Some countries see this whole process as highly intrusive.

And there is still no common appreciation of the level of threat posed by nuclear terrorism.

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President Barack Obama has visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating South Korea from North Korea, amid rising tensions over the North’s planned rocket launch.

Barack Obama went to an observation post on the volatile border, and met US troops. The president will hold talks in Seoul later.

The US has voiced concern that the North Korea’s rocket launch due in April is a pretext for a missile test. Pyongyang says it wants to put a satellite into orbit.

On Monday, Barack Obama will attend a security summit in Seoul.

The conference in the South Korean capital will be attended by leaders from more than 50 nations.

The summit main focus will be preventing criminal or militant groups from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang’s nuclear programme is not officially on the agenda. But American officials have made it clear that President Barack Obama will be discussing the programmes of both North Korea and Iran in bilateral meetings with the Chinese and Russian presidents, our correspondent says.

North Korea is not taking part in the summit.

President Barack Obama has visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating South Korea from North Korea, amid rising tensions over the North's planned rocket launch

President Barack Obama has visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating South Korea from North Korea, amid rising tensions over the North's planned rocket launch

It was Barack Obama’s first visit to the DMZ, which has bisected the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The president told US troops serving there that they were protecting “freedom’s frontier”.

Earlier this week, Japan said it was readying its anti-missile defenses ahead of North Korea’s launch, expected between 12 and 16 April.

Pyongyang says the rocket – which would mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-Sung – would take a new southern trajectory instead of a previous route east over Japan.

US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell has said an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines could be affected by the flight path.

North Korea has shown a growing mastery of ballistic technology during its three previous long-range tests.

However, experts say none has succeeded in reaching orbit, and debris has fallen to earth at various stages during the launches.

Last month North Korea offered a deal involving the freezing of its nuclear and long-rang missile programmes in return for US food aid.

 

North Korean rocket due to be launched in April may affect an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, says US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

Kurt Campbell is reported to have asked the three countries to condemn the launch.

North Korea says the rocket will take a new southern trajectory instead of a previous route east over Japan.

Japan is readying anti-missile defenses around the southern islands of Okinawa, which could be under the flight path.

North Korea says the rocket is intended to put a satellite in space, but the US and others say the launch is a cover for a long-range missile test – a potential delivery system for nuclear weapons.

The launch is expected to dominate a security summit on Monday in the South Korean capital Seoul, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama.

North Korean rocket due to be launched in April may affect an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines

North Korean rocket due to be launched in April may affect an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines

Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald said Kurt Campbell had briefed Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Friday on the rocket’s southward trajectory.

“If the missile test proceeds as North Korea has indicated, our judgment is that it will impact in an area roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” the paper quoted Kurt Campbell as saying.

“We have never seen this trajectory before. We have weighed into each of these countries and asked them to make clear that such a test is provocative and this plan should be discontinued.”

Pyongyang appears to be trying to soften the political impact of its planned rocket launch.

It has chosen a new southerly route mainly over open sea, avoiding what is regarded as a more provocative easterly trajectory over the main Japanese island.

North Korean state-run KCNA news agency said: “A safe flight orbit has been chosen so that carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries.”

North Korea has shown a growing mastery of ballistic technology during its three previous long range tests.

However, experts say that none has succeeded in reaching orbit, and debris has fallen to earth at various stages during the launches.

Pyongyang said last week that the rocket launch – between 12 and 16 April – would mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-Sung.

 

Japan prepares its anti-missile defense systems in response to the planned launch of a North Korean long-range rocket next month, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka has said.

Reports said the defense systems would be deployed near the island of Okinawa to shoot down the rocket should it threaten Japanese territory.

North Korea says the rocket will put a satellite into orbit.

But the US and its allies believe the launch is a pretext for a missile test.

Pyongyang said last week it was to mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-sung with the launch.

The announcement drew widespread criticism that the launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions.

The resolutions were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as the last North Korean rocket was launched over the country.

“I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships,” Naoki Tanaka said.

The Japanese parliament also passed a resolution condemning the launch.

South Korea, China and the US have also expressed concern over the planned North Korean launch.

“It would be a grave provocation threatening the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia,” the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.

Nuclear envoys from South Korea and Japan held talks in Seoul to work out how they would respond if the launch were to go ahead, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Japan prepares its anti-missile defense systems in response to the planned launch of a North Korean long-range rocket next month

Japan prepares its anti-missile defense systems in response to the planned launch of a North Korean long-range rocket next month

Meanwhile, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun met Pyongyang’s ambassador to express Beijing’s “worry”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called North Korea’s announcement “highly provocative”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said any launch could discourage aid donors.

“Such an act would undermine recent positive diplomatic progress and, in its effect on international donors, would likely worsen the humanitarian situation inside the country,” he said in a speech in Singapore.

Last month, Pyongyang agreed to suspend long-range missile tests as part of a deal for the United States to supply 240,000 tons of food aid to North Korea.

It also agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and to allow back UN weapons inspectors as part of the deal.

A US state department spokesperson said it would be “hard to imagine” giving food aid to North Korea, as previously agreed, if Pyongyang went ahead with the rocket launch.

In the launch three years ago, Pyongyang said the satellite made it into orbit and characterized it as a test of its satellite technology.

The move drew condemnation from the US and South Korea and led to the UN resolutions prohibiting the North from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Foreign officials said there were no indications that a satellite had reached space and that the launch was a cover for Pyongyang to test long-range missile technology.

North Korea said last week that the launch of a rocket carrying a satellite would take place between 12 and 16 April.

The ”working satellite”, the Kwangmyongsong-3, is an opportunity for ”putting the country’s technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage”, said a North Korean spokesman.

The rocket would be launched from the Solace Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan county, North Pyongyang province on the country’s west coast.

State media also reported that North Korea has already launched two experimental satellites.

 

UN nuclear inspectors have been invited to North Korea for the first time in three years, the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Ri Yong-Ho has confirmed.

Ri Yong-Ho said the aim of the move was to implement a deal with the US.

North Korea last month agreed to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests in return for food aid. It also agreed to allow UN inspectors in, the US said.

The invitation comes three months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.

But North Korea’s pledge to co-operate with the international community was thrown into doubt last week, when Pyongyang announced plans to launch what it called a rocket-mounted satellite.

North Korea said the launch – between 12 and 16 April – would mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-sung.

Any launch would be seen as violating UN Security Council resolutions, and the US has described the plans as “highly provocative”.

North Korea sent an invitation letter to UN nuclear watchdog three months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il

North Korea sent an invitation letter to UN nuclear watchdog three months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the UN’s nuclear watchdog – announced it had received the invitation from North Korea on Monday.

It said it would discuss the possible visit with Pyongyang and “other parties concerned”.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

The move was confirmed later by Ri Yong-Ho. Speaking in Beijing, he said: “In order to implement the agreement, we’ve sent a letter of invitation to the IAEA to send inspectors to our country.”

It is unclear how much scope for inspections the IAEA would be given.

In the past North Korea has limited access to key sites.

Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors 10 years ago after a deal with the US unravelled.

In 2003, the secretive Communist state withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The inspectors were allowed back several years later – but were thrown out again in 2009.

 

North Korea has announced the launch of a satellite mounted on a rocket to mark the 100th birthday of its late former President Kim Il-Sung.

The rocket launch will take place between 12 and 16 April, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said.

South Korea said the launch would be a “grave provocation” and Japan urged the North to “exercise restraint”.

The move is seen as violating UN Security Council resolutions passed after a similar launch in 2009.

Japan is particularly concerned as North Korea’s April 2009 rocket was launched over the country.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, told a news conference on Friday that his country had set up a crisis management taskforce to monitor the situation and was co-operating with the US and South Korea.

“We believe a launch would be a move to interfere with our effort toward a dialogue, and we strongly urge North Korea not to carry out a satellite launch,” Osamu Fujimura said.

North Korea plans of launching a rocket in April is seen as violating UN Security Council resolutions passed after a similar launch in 2009

North Korea plans of launching a rocket in April is seen as violating UN Security Council resolutions passed after a similar launch in 2009

South Korea’s foreign ministry said such a move would be a “clear violation” of UN Security Council Resolutions.

“It would be a grave provocation threatening the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia,” the ministry said in a statement.

Last month, Pyongyang agreed to suspend long-range missile tests.

The agreement was part of a deal for the United States to supply 240,000 tons of food aid to North Korea.

In the 2009 launch, Pyongyang said the satellite made it into orbit and characterized it as a test of its satellite technology.

The move drew condemnation from the US and South Korea and led to the UN resolutions prohibiting the North from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Foreign officials said there were no indications that a satellite had reached space and that the launch was a cover for Pyongyang to test long-range missile technology.

The launch next month of a ”working satellite”, the Kwangmyongsong-3, is an opportunity for ”putting the country’s technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage”, said a North Korean spokesman.

The rocket would be launched from the Solace Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province on the country’s west coast.

State media also reported that the North has already launched two experimental satellites.

 

Following talks with the US, North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests.

The US State Department said Pyongyang had also agreed to allow UN inspectors to monitor its reactor in Yongbyon to verify compliance with the measures.

In return, the US is finalizing 240,000 tons of food aid for the North.

The move comes two months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.

The move could pave the way for the resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang, which last broke down in 2009.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US still had “profound concerns” over North Korea, but welcomed the move as a “first step”.

“On the occasion of Kim Jong-Il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations.

“Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.”

Hillary Clinton said the US would however be watching Pyongyang closely, and would be “judging North Korea’s new leaders by their actions”.

North Korea agreed to nuclear moratorium two months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il

North Korea agreed to nuclear moratorium two months after Kim Jong-Un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il

North Korea confirmed the move in a foreign ministry statement released in Pyongyang.

The statement, carried by the KCNA news agency, said the measures were “aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations” between the two countries, and said talks would continue.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the announcement was “an important step forward” and that inspectors stood ready to return to North Korea, Reuters reports.

Earlier, a senior US military official said the issue of food aid for North Korea was now linked to political progress – contradicting earlier policy.

North Korean population has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990’s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

The country agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

But progress on the deal was stop-start, and the agreement broke down in 2009.

Contact between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the talks began in July 2011.

A meeting last week between US and North Korean officials in Beijing was the third round of talks aimed at exploring how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

 

North Korean television has aired a documentary to honor what is reported to be the birthday of its new leader, Kim Jong-Un.

The footage shows Kim Jong-Un in his new role as supreme military commander – inspecting troops, saluting and sitting in a tank.

The documentary also confirms that Kim Jong-Un was being groomed for the role from 2009, showing footage of him from that time watching a rocket launch with his father, Kim Jong-Il.

Kim Jong-un’s age is not known but he is believed to be in his late 20s.

The death of Kim Jong-Il on 17 December left the threat of a dangerous vacuum in a society raised to venerate one supreme leader.

Less than a month on, North Korea’s unique media machine is already working to fill it.

The footage shows Kim Jong-Un in his new role as supreme military commander - inspecting troops, saluting and sitting in a tank

The footage shows Kim Jong-Un in his new role as supreme military commander - inspecting troops, saluting and sitting in a tank

The documentary shows Kim Jong-Un manoeuvring a tank, watching jet fighter and firing exercises and posing for photographs with soldiers.

The film also shows Kim Jong-Un with his father shaking hands with officials at a satellite control centre after scientists launched a rocket in April 2009.

“I had decided to wage a real war if the enemies shot down the rocket,” Kim Jong-Un is quoted as saying.

The documentary also shows him visiting factories, talking to officials and inspecting their work – all the things his father used to do.

Websites linked to the North Korean government have already begun describing the new leader as having the wisdom of great men, extraordinary competence and military brilliance.

Kim Jong-Un was named “supreme leader of the party, state and army” following the death of Kim Jon-Il.

The young leader has already pledged to continue with Kim Jong-Il’s “military first” policies.

Footages from Kim Jong-Il’s funerals showed an 8ft member of the North Korean armed forces towering beside his fellow soldiers in the driving snow.

Observers of how the country’s media covered Kim Jong Il’s funeral believe what we are in fact really seeing is a spot of Photoshopping.

The seemingly doctored photograph of the soldier, who appears to be well over 8ft tall, shows him in the back row of one block of mourners.

The image was captured as the funeral procession passed near the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in the capital Pyongyang.

Footages from Kim Jong-Il’s funerals showed an 8ft member of the North Korean armed forces towering beside his fellow soldiers in the driving snow

Footages from Kim Jong-Il’s funerals showed an 8ft member of the North Korean armed forces towering beside his fellow soldiers in the driving snow

Official news agency KCNA took the photo, and the giant soldier appears to be shown from several different angles. This has led some to say that the photo has not be manipulated.

Others believe it could be 7ft 8in tall North Korean basketball star Ri Myung Hun, dubbed Michael Ri for his prowess on the court.

The discovery of the giant follows evidence from this week showing how the scores of wailing mourners were not the only well-choreographed aspect at the memorial service.

Two comparison photos showed how a camera crew filming the sombre ceremony were apparently erased from history after being digitally removed from the picture.

Live footage from the North Korean capital is rarely seen outside of the insular communist dictatorship.

The tightly stage-managed two-day funeral seemed to be a message from the country’s ruling family that they remain in tight control despite the death of their figurehead.

There has been no explanation for the apparent omission from within North Korea since the funeral.

However, a note released by Reuters describing the previous doctored images said: “This combination picture of two handout images from KCNA shows a limousine with a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il leading his funeral procession in Pyongyang December 28, 2011.

“In the top picture released by Kyodo, a group of men is seen on the left side of the picture. In the bottom picture which was sent directly to Reuters by KCNA, the group is missing.

“Reuters now believes the bottom picture was altered by KCNA.”

North Korea has hailed Kim Jong-Un as “supreme leader of the party, state and army” after his father’s funeral.

Kim Jong-Un took centre stage at a memorial service in Pyongyang’s main square a day after his father’s funeral.

Kim Yong-Nam, formally the number two leader, told a million-strong crowd their sorrow would be turned into strength “1,000 times greater under the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-Un”.

State TV showed Kim Jong-Un surrounded by top government and army officials.

The memorial event appeared to be the Kim dynasty’s unofficial handover of power.

A three-minute silence was also held, after which trains and ships throughout the country sounded their horns.

North Korea has hailed Kim Jong-Un as "supreme leader of the party, state and army" after his father’s funeral

North Korea has hailed Kim Jong-Un as "supreme leader of the party, state and army" after his father’s funeral

 

Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on 17 December, aged 69, state media said. He had ruled North Korea since the death of his father Kim Il-Sung in 1994.

“Respected Comrade Kim Jong-Un is our party, military and country’s supreme leader who inherits great comrade Kim Jong-Il’s ideology, leadership, character, virtues, grit and courage,” Kim Yong-Nam told the massive crowd gathered in Kim Il-Sung square.

“The fact that he completely resolved the succession matter is Great Comrade Kim Jong-Il’s most noble achievement.”

A top military official, Kim Jong-Gak, also addressed the crowd.

“Our people’s military will serve comrade Kim Jong-Un at the head of our revolutionary troops and will continue to maintain and complete the Songun accomplishments of great leader Kim Jong-Il,” he said.

Songun refers to the “military-first” policy – channeling funds into the military.

On Wednesday, thousands stood weeping and wailing in the snow as Kim Jong-Il’s funeral cortege passed, images from state television showed.

The ceremonies echoed the displays of pomp and military might that marked the death of Kim Il-sung, in 1994.

Kim Jong-Un – Kim Jong-Il’s third son – cried as he walked alongside the hearse. Tens of thousands of soldiers lined up to bow their heads in homage in the city’s main square.

Kim Jong-Un – who is thought to be in his late 20s and who has little political experience – was accompanied by his uncle, Chang Song-Taek.

Chang Song-Taek is expected to be a key player as the younger Kim Jong-Un consolidates power.

Kim Jong-Il – known in North Korea as the “Dear Leader” – was in the process of formalizing Kim Jong-Un as his successor when he died.

However, the transition was not complete, leaving regional neighbors fearful of a power struggle in the nuclear-armed pariah state.

Kim Jong-Il’s two older sons, Kim Jong-Nam and Kim Jong-Chol, were not seen at the funeral.

No foreign delegations have attended any of the events. However, UN offices around the world lowered their flags to half-mast.

A spokesman at the UN headquarters in New York said that the move had been requested by Pyongyang’s UN mission but was part of normal protocol for the funeral of any head of state.

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North Korea has started the two-day funeral services for late leader Kim Jong-Il with a huge procession in the capital, Pyongyang.

Television footages showed tens of thousands of soldiers with their heads bowed as a giant portrait of Kim Jong-Il was carried slowly through the streets.

Kim Jong-Il’ successor and third son, Kim Jong-Un, walked beside the hearse, images from state television showed.

Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on 17 December, aged 69, state media said.

He has been lying in state for the past 10 days.

No schedule was released ahead of the commemorations and no foreign delegations are attending.

Observers said the ceremonies echoed the displays of pomp and military might that marked the death of Kim Jong-Il’s father, Kim Il-Sung, in 1994.

Kim Jong-Un – who is thought to be in his late 20’s and who has little political experience – was shown weeping beside the hearse as it drove through the snowy capital.

He was accompanied by his uncle, Chang Song-Taek, who is expected to be a key player as the younger Kim consolidates power.

Ri Yong-Ho, the army chief, also accompanied the hearse as it drove past ranks of troops.

North Korea has started the two-day funeral services for late leader Kim Jong-Il with a huge procession in the capital, Pyongyang

North Korea has started the two-day funeral services for late leader Kim Jong-Il with a huge procession in the capital, Pyongyang

The three-hour funeral procession was led by a limousine bearing a huge portrait of a smiling Kim Jong-Il. The coffin was draped in a red flag and surrounded by white flowers.

As it passed by, crowds of mourners wailed and flailed their arms as soldiers struggled to keep them from spilling into the road.

One soldier interviewed by North Korean state television said: “The snow is endlessly falling like tears. How could the sky not cry when we’ve lost our general who was a great man from the sky? As we’re separated from the general by death, people, mountains and sky are all shedding tears of blood. Dear Supreme Commander!”

The procession was broadcast live on state television. When it ended outside Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace, state TV began broadcasting documentaries about Kim Jong-Il’s life.

Kim Jong-Il’s body had previously lain in state in a glass coffin at the palace.

Observers are keenly watching the line-up over the two-day funeral to see which officials are in prominent positions.

Kim Jong-Il – known in North Korea as the “Dear Leader” – was in the process of formalizing Kim Jong-Un as his successor when he died. However, the transition was not complete, leaving regional neighbors fearful of a power struggle in the nuclear-armed pariah state.

North Korea’s reluctance to open up the funeral ceremony to foreign delegations may signal that those hierarchies have not yet been fully agreed.

In the week since Kim Jong-Il died, state media has called Kim Jong-Un the “Great Successor” and referred to him as the leader of the military and the party.

Commemorations are expected to continue on Thursday, with a three-minute silence at noon local time (03:00 GMT), followed by trains and ships sounding horns. The national memorial service will then begin.

The inter-Korean Kaesong industrial park has been closed for two days for the mourning following a North Korean request, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

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Kim Jong-Un is the heir poised to become the next leader of rogue state North Korea, but a probe into the school days of the youngest son of Dictator Kim Jong-Il proves he is little more than an academic failure who squandered his education playing computer games and basketball.

The baby-faced Kim Jong-Un, 28, first stepped out of his father’s shadow in September last year to appear in public in the capital Pyongyang as thousands of goose-stepping troops marched by to mark the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers Party.

Kim Jong-Un looked the part, dressed up in the uniform of a four-star general, and trained in the operation of the torture camps and punishment gulags which fill his blighted land.

The world will have to see whether his prolonged exposure to the west and its values during his school days in Switzerland have imbued him with any democratic values that might bring his decrepit and starving country back into the international fold after years of isolation.

But the signs are not good. Despite having lot of money spent on his education at a top private school in Switzerland, he didn’t leave with even the equivalent of a single GCSE.

When Kim Jong-Un was just 15, his father took him out of the costly International School Of Berne, where fees now cost around $25,000 a year. He moved him to a nearby state school to save money but he was quickly put in the lower tier in class.

Wearing Nike trainers, a Chicago Bulls sweatshirt and jeans, Kim Jong-Un was introduced to Class 6A by the headmistress of Liebefeld-Steinholzi School near Berne. She lied: “Boys and girls, this is Un Pak. He comes from North Korea and he is the son of a diplomat.”

Kim Jong-Un took the empty seat next to Portuguese diplomat’s son Joao Micaelo and the pair became friends. Joao Micaelo, who now works as a chef, said: “We weren’t the dimmest kids in class but neither were we the cleverest. We were always in the second tier.

“Un tried hard to express himself but he was not very good at German and became flustered when asked to give the answers to a problem. The teachers would see him struggling ashamedly and then move on. They left him in peace.

“He left without getting any exam results at all. He was much more interested in football and basketball than lessons.”

When Kim Jong-Un was just 15, his father took him out of the costly International School Of Berne, where fees now cost around $25,000 a year

When Kim Jong-Un was just 15, his father took him out of the costly International School Of Berne, where fees now cost around $25,000 a year

A big fan of star Michael Jordan, Kim Jong-Un – who was once caught with a bondage pornographic magazine in his school bag – proved to be a good player on the basketball court.

Kim Jong-Un did shine at maths but nothing else in class, and schoolmates remember that he needed a lot of extra tuition.

One colleague who was with Kim Jong-Un at the International School said: “It must have been 1993 when he came to the school. His English was bad at first. He had a strong accent and he was given extra lessons.

“He also learned German and was OK in the basics of both – but just OK. His English got better but not his German.

“He was good in maths. That sounds like he was a nerd – but he wasn’t. He wasn’t so hot in other subjects. I suppose in hindsight we could have nicknamed him Dim Jong-un. One day he just disappeared.”

According to school sources, Kim Jong-Il got fed up paying for an education that he thought was going nowhere. But there may have been another reason – his son’s taboo love affair with American culture.

The North Korean Embassy in Berne sent back reports on his son’s friendships and influences to his father and intelligence chiefs back in North Korea.

JoaoMicaelo said: “We spent nearly every afternoon with each other. He often invited me back to eat. He had a private chef who cooked whatever he wanted.

“Much of it wasn’t to my taste. Lots of chicken in strange sweet-and-sour sauces. He didn’t live at the embassy but in a flat in a nice residential area near the school.”

Kim Jong-Un in fact lived in a large flat at No 10 Kirchstrasse, a sedate suburban street with two pizza cafes, a bank and a Co-Op supermarket.

Joao Micaelo added: “He was surrounded by the best gadgets that the rest of us kids couldn’t afford – TVs, video recorder, a Sony PlayStation. He had a cook, a driver, a private teacher.

“But, curiously, I never saw his room. We were mostly in the communal living room. We watched a lot of kung-fu films – especially Jackie Chan movies. He loved them. He had everything which we never saw coming close to our own cinema.

“After school we met at the basketball court and threw a few baskets, with both of us pretending to be Michael Jordan. We were all envious of his genuine NBA basketball, which must have cost more than $150.

“We spoke about girls and about our grand plans. At weekends there were parties and a lot of under-age drinking. But I never once saw a drop of alcohol pass his lips and he wasn’t interested in girls.

“He only spoke about his life in the <<homeland>> rarely. But I knew he had a certain homesickness. On his stereo he only played North Korean songs. Western music didn’t do it for him.

“Most of all he listened to the North Korean national anthem, which we must have heard 1,000 times together. I only knew him in his alibi mode until one Sunday afternoon, shortly before he left for North Korea in 2000.

“He pulled out a photo of him alongside his father and said <<I am not the ambassador’s son. I am the son of the North Korean President.>>”

One member of staff at the school, identifying himself only as Joerg, said: “We had these after-school discussion groups. I remember I was outside the school having a smoke when this black, armoured Mercedes with smoked glass pulled up.

“Out stepped <<Un Pak>>. He was surrounded by these dwarf ninjas. They scanned the street and then led him up the path.

“That night we talked about the responsibilities of democracy – you know, the right to vote, the right to a common voice, the importance of speaking out.

“He never joined in. He looked down at his shoes all the time and fidgeted, never seemed easy. He was dipping into a bag from Loeb – that’s the fanciest delicatessen in Berne, the kind of place where you can spend 100 euros on a couple of salads.

“And at that moment I thought of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm where, truly, some are more equal than others.”

Dead body of North Korean “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il has been laid in state in a glass coffin as weeping mourners filled public squares across the country.

State television showed still images of the Kim Jong-Il body in the open coffin, surrounded by wreaths and covered with a red blanket.

Kim Jong-Un – his third son and successor – paid his respects to his father along with top military and Workers’ Party officials during a “solemn ceremony”.

North Korea declared an 11-day period of official mourning, with flags flown at half-mast at all military units, factories, businesses, farms and public buildings.

The streets of the capital Pyongyang were quiet, but crowds of people gathered at landmarks to mourn Kim Jong-Il who died suddenly on Saturday from a massive heart attack at the age of 69.

Kim Jong-Il ruled North Korea for 17 years in a brutal and repressive dictatorship.

Under his regime’s economic mismanagement, a terrible famine in the 1990s caused the death of millions from starvation and hardship.

The tyrant imprisoned thousands of political “opponents” and there is no access to freedom of the press, the internet or health care in the country.

North Korean state television showed still images of the Kim Jong-Il body in the open coffin, surrounded by wreaths and covered with a red blanket

North Korean state television showed still images of the Kim Jong-Il body in the open coffin, surrounded by wreaths and covered with a red blanket

The dictator’s body was lying in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, a mausoleum where the embalmed body of his father – national founder Kim Il-Sung – has been on display in a glass sarcophagus since his death in 1994.

A state funeral will be held there on December 28.

Ri Ho-Il, a lecturer at the Korean Revolutionary History Museum, said: “Our General is our people’s benevolent father. He defended our people’s happiness, carrying on his forced march night and day.”

Since Kim Jong-Il’s death, state media have stepped up their lavish praise of his son Kim Jong-Un in an effort to strengthen a cult of personality around him similar to that of his father.

Although there have been no signs of unrest or discord in Pyongyang’s somber streets, the possibility of a power struggle in a country seeking nuclear weapons and known for its secrecy has heightened tensions in the region.

North Korean officials said they will not invite foreign delegations and will allow no entertainment during the mourning period.

The Korean Central News Agency described Kim Jong-Un as a “great person born of heaven”, a propaganda term only his father and grandfather Kim Il-Sung had enjoyed.

The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, described Kim Jon-Un as “the spiritual pillar and the lighthouse of hope” for the people.

It described him as “born of Mount Paektu” – one of Korea’s most cherished sites and Kim Jong-Il’s official birthplace.

Yesterday, North Korea’s military pledged to “uphold the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-Un” and called him a “great successor”.

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Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, has died at the age of 69, state-run television has announced.

Kim Jong-il, who has led the communist nation since the death of his father, Kim Il-sung in 1994, died on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said.

North Korean leader suffered a stroke in 2008 and was absent from public view for months.

Kim Jong-il’s designated successor is his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s.

North Korea’s state-run news agency, KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim.

“All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public,” the news agency said.

State media also referred to Kim Jong-un as the “great successor to the revolutionary cause” in what appeared to be the first such reference.

 Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, has died at the age of 69

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, has died at the age of 69

A funeral for Kim Jong-il will be held in Pyongyang on 28 December and Kim Jong-un will head the funeral committee, KCNA reports. A period of national mourning has been declared from 17 to 29 December.

International media reports say Kim Jong-il’s death will cause huge shock waves across North Korea, an impoverished, nuclear-armed nation with few allies.

The announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death came in an emotional statement read out on national television.

The announcer, wearing black, said he had died of physical and mental over-work. A later report from KCNA said Kim Jong-il had had a heart attack.

China – North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner – said it was “distressed” to hear the news of his death.

“We express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

South Korea’s military has been put on alert following the announcement and its National Security Council is convening for an emergency meeting, Yonhap news agency reports. The Japanese government has also convened a special security meeting.

The White House said it was “closely monitoring” reports of the death. The US remained “committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies”, it said in a statement.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak spoke to US President Barack Obama by telephone.

“The two leaders agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together,” a South Korean presidential spokesman said.

Asian stock markets fell after the news was announced.

Kim Jong-il inherited the leadership of North Korea – which remains technically at war with South Korea – from his father Kim Il-sung.

Shortly after he came to power, a severe famine caused by ill-judged economic reforms and poor harvests left an estimated two million people dead.

Kim Jong-il’s regime has been harshly criticized for human rights abuses and is internationally isolated because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Under Kim Jong-il’s leadership funds have been channeled to the military and in 2006 North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. It followed that up with a second one three years later. Multinational talks aimed at disarming North Korea have been deadlocked for months.

Kim Jong-il unveiled his son as his likely successor a year ago. Many had expected to see this process further consolidated in 2012.

Professor Lee Jung-hoon, specializing in international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, told the BBC that with the transition of power from father to son incomplete, Kim Jong-il’s death could herald “very unstable times” in North Korea.

“We have to be very worried because whenever there is domestic instability North Korea likes to find an external situation to divert the attention away from that – including indulging in provocation.”

Christopher Hill, former US representative to the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme, said all parties needed to “keep cool heads”.

As for Kim Jong-il’s son and successor, very little is known about him – including his exact age. He was educated in Switzerland and is the son of Kim Jong-il’s reportedly favorite wife, the late Ko Yong-hui.

Kim Jong-un has an older brother, Kim Jong-chol, and a older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam – both of whom appear to have been passed over for the succession.

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North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Il has been spending nearly $200,000 a year on his dogs while his nation starves, it has been revealed.

The allegations were made in a report presented to the country’s parliament leaked by a South Korean Member of Parliament.

Nearly six million North Koreans – a quarter of the country’s population – live in extreme poverty due to food shortages in the country.

A third of children younger than five years old are reported to suffer from malnutrition in North Korea.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il lives a lavish lifestyle while his people live in poverty

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il lives a lavish lifestyle while his people live in poverty

MP Yoon Sang Hyun said the Kim Jong-Il‘s regime had purchased around 600 bottles of fine French wine that were consumed at parties for senior party and military officials last year.

Yoon Sang Hyun said the dictator had also imported several dozen Russian horses, and bought ten US jet skis for his son and heir Kim Jong Eun.

Most of the luxury goods had been purchased through China – the North’s sole major ally, and Russia, Yoon Sang Hyun said.

If found to be true, the Kim Jong-Il’s actions will have breached United Nations Security Council sanctions banning the export of luxury items to the communist state.

The sanctions were imposed after the North’s missile and nuclear tests.

MP Yoon Sang Hyun, a member of the ruling conservative Grand National Party in South Korea said: “The luxury life for Kim Jong-il’s family goes on regardless of the worsening suffering of North Koreans amid the third-generation succession.”