Report: Leader Kim's health delays North Korean party meeting

Report: Leader Kim's health delays North Korean party meeting

North Korea's ruling Workers Party has postponed its largest meeting in 30 years due to the poor health of Kim Jong Il, the YTN news channel reported, citing intelligence sources.

The health problems of the 68-year-old leader of the Communist Party and the country are not serious enough that the meeting would have to be cancelled and the delegates assembling in Pyongyang would soon meet, YTN quoted the sources as saying.

North Korea said only that the meeting would take place at the beginning of September without announcing specific dates. It was convened to select the party's new leadership circle, DPA reported.

North Korea watchers said they believe Kim also planned to position his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to become his successor at the party meeting.

Speculation about who would follow Kim Jong Il has swirled over the past two years since South Korea's intelligence agency said the elder Kim had suffered a stroke.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday, however, that Kim Jong Il had visited a chemical factory in a remote northern province on the Chinese border.

The report did not say when Kim Jong Il visited the plant in Jagang province, but usually, such reports are released a day or two after his visits.

On Saturday, the agency also said Kim Jong Il had toured a coal mine in the same province.

Observers have been not only watching the leader's health but also signs of when the Workers Party delegates would meet in the isolated Stalinist country.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo cited a government official in Seoul as saying that most of the delegates had arrived in Pyongyang and the meeting should begin soon. But Walter Klitz, project leader on the Koreas for Germany's Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which promotes liberal politics, said Sunday in Seoul after a trip to Pyongyang that he believed the meeting would be held at the beginning of October.

He said the delegates had not yet been in Pyongyang during his visit last week. The preparations for the party conference were nearly finished and the delegates were waiting to be called to the capital, he said.

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