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December 22, 2011

North Korea Warns South to Respect Late Leader

North Korea accused the South Friday of an intolerable response to the death of supreme leader Kim Jong Il by expressing sympathy for the North Korean people, but deciding not to send a government delegation to Kim's funeral next week.

In a statement carried on the North's official Web site, Pyongyang warned Seoul that the decision could have a considerable impact on North-South relations.  The North has said it will open its border to any delegation from the South that wants to express condolences.

But South Korea has said it will allow only two groups to visit - the families of former president Kim Dae-Jung and former Hyundai Group chairman Chung Mong-Hun.

North Korea proclaimed the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era Thursday, describing the son of Kim Jong Il as the "successor" of the nation's revolutionary undertakings "and leader of its people."

An editorial in North Korea's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Kim Jong Un should move forward on a path of self-reliance, while continuing the teachings of Kim Jong Il, whose death was announced this week.  The paper urged the nation to rally behind the young leader and faithfully uphold his leadership.

Kim Jong Il's death after 17 years in power has sparked regional and Western concerns about the future of a country with a large army, a history of deep animosity toward its southern neighbor and broad nuclear ambitions.

Thursday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told political leaders the ongoing transition in North Korea holds potential for increased flexibility in Seoul's relations with Pyongyang.

Lee spoke as South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator arrived in Beijing for what South Korean media described as an emergency meeting focusing on regional stability.  Ahead of the meeting, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said the envoys would discuss how to proceed on the North Korean nuclear issue.

"They [South Korean nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam and Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei] are planning to hold the South Korea-China chief delegates' meeting discussing the six-party talks," he said. "In the discussion they are going to share their views on the situation of the Korean peninsula after North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Il's death.  They will also discuss future measures about the North Korean nuclear issue."  

Six-party nuclear negotiations aimed at bringing an end to the North's nuclear program involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.