09/30/2010, 00.00
KOREA
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No breakthroughs at North-South military talks

North Korea’s media release first official picture of Dictator Kim Jong-il’s third son, 28-year-old Kim Jong-un. CIA chief Panetta is flying to Seoul to discuss the succession in Pyongyang.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The first intra-Korean military talks in two years ended without a breakthrough. South Korea urged North Korea to assume its responsibilities for the sinking of ROKS Cheonan last March and punish those responsible. Pyongyang has refused to accept any involvement in the incident, which cost the lives of 46 sailors.

Representatives from the two sides talked for two hour in Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone, but left without setting a date for the next meeting. The talks took place against a backdrop of five days of joint military exercises involving the United States and South Korea, which began on 27 September in the Yellow Sea.

The Cheonan incident, which according to an international investigation that ended in May was caused by the North Koreans, raised tensions between the two Koreas.

September saw some signs of improvement when Pyongyang freed South Korean fishermen it had captured and proposed to give families divided by the 1950-1953 war a chance to meet. Seoul for its part shipped food aid to flood victims in North Korea.

At the same time, the succession story continues in North Korea. Official media released a picture showing Kim Jong-un, heir designate of North Korea’s dictator, sitting near his uncle, two seats from his father.

Even though the Dear Leader has not yet officially announced his intention to hand power over to his son, the latter’s elevation to the rank of four-star general and appointment to the post of vice chairman of the Central Military Committee indicate that, short of some unforeseen event, Kim Jong-il’s third son is likely to succeed him.

The situation in North Korea and the succession process underway are on the agenda over the weekend when CIA Director Leon Panetta arrives in Seoul to meet President Lee Myung-bak and key security officials here, including Defence Minister Kim Tae-young, a government source said in Seoul.

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