Asian rivals converge over N Korea concern

Asian rivals converge over N Korea concern

Asian rivals converge over N Korea concern

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (R) is escorted by his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing on Dec 25. AP photo

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda yesterday held talks with China’s president during a visit to Beijing dominated by concerns over nuclear-armed North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-Il.

China is North Korea’s closest ally, and President Hu Jintao told Noda he was “ready to make joint efforts with all relevant parties, including Japan, to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” the official Xinhua news agency reported. Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been dogged by economic and territorial disputes, with Japan repeatedly raising concerns over China’s widening naval reach and growing assertiveness in the Pacific. But Kim’s death has shifted the agenda to worries about nuclear-armed North Korea, where his untested son Kim Jong-Un appears to be taking the reins of power in the isolated communist state. Kim’s death “should not wrongly affect the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” Noda told China’s Premier Wen Jiabao during Sunday talks, according to a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman. “Under this situation, the role of China is extremely important.” State broadcaster China Central Television said Wen and Noda had agreed to restart stalled six-party talks on scrapping the North’s nuclear programme at an early date. The six-party talks, chaired by China and also involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan, have been at a standstill since December 2008.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Il’s son was identified yesterday as head of a top decision-making body of the ruling Workers’ Party, a post that now gives him authority over political as well as military matters in North Korea. A week after state media reported Kim’s Dec. 17 death, the campaign to install successor Kim Jong Un was gaining momentum.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff

On Saturday, state media referred to him as “supreme leader” of North Korea’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces and said the military’s top leaders had pledged their loyalty to him. On Monday, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper described him as head of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party a post that appears to make him the top official in the Workers’ Party.

Kim Jong Il ruled North Korea as head of three main state organs: the Workers’ Party, the Korean People’s Army and the National Defense Commission. His father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, meanwhile, remains the nation’s “eternal president” long after his 1994 death.