North Korea marks 7th anniversary of Kim Jong’s Il death

The anniversary observations are expected to continue through Monday across the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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North Korea marks 7th anniversary of Kim Jong’s Il death

  • A steady flow of North Koreans offering flowers and paying respects to the late leader could be seen at Mansu Hill in central Pyongyang
  • Though focused on remembrances of his father, the anniversary also marks Kim Jong Un’s own rise to power

PYONGYANG, North Korea: North Koreans are marking the anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong Il seven years ago with visits to statues and vows of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong Un.
As snow fell Sunday, a steady flow of North Koreans offering flowers and paying respects to the late leader could be seen at Mansu Hill in central Pyongyang, the location of huge bronze statues of the “Dear Leader” and national founder Kim Il Sung.
The anniversary observations were expected to continue through Monday across the country.
Though focused on remembrances of his father, the anniversary also marks Kim’s own rise to power.
The death of Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17, 2011, thrust Kim into power when he was still in his late 20s and a virtual unknown figure outside of the North. But, despite many predictions from outside experts that he wouldn’t be up to the task, Kim has managed to consolidate power, bolster the country’s economy in the face of intense international sanctions and attain a goal his father and grandfather could only dream of — he is the first North Korean leader to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.
As the nation remembered his father, there was no mention in the state media of the issues that have gotten the most attention elsewhere, including a flurry of speculation in South Korea that Kim might visit Seoul by the end of the year, or how he intends to deal with growing frustration in Washington over the slow pace of denuclearization talks between the two countries.
The national news agency, KCNA, instead ran stories about memorials to Kim Jong Il in Libya, Russia and Serbia.
Even so, the anniversary was being watched closely for any signs of change or hints of what the country’s leadership may be planning in the months ahead.
With Kim’s power base seemingly more solid than ever, and his recent effort to establish himself on the world stage through summits with President Donald Trump and others, North Korea watchers have been on the lookout for signs that his own personality cult is being bolstered.
Virtually all homes and public offices in North Korea feature portraits of the elder Kims, who are also memorialized in countless statues, mosaics and cenotaphs around the country. North Korean adults wear pins over their hearts bearing the likenesses of Kim Il Sung of Kim Jong Il, or both.
This year’s anniversary has so far offered no major departures from past precedent.
The North has yet to come out with a Kim Jong Un pin or to order his image join the others on every wall, though Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, have been referred to with increasingly lofty titles — “chairman” for Kim and “respected first lady” for Ri. A special portrait of the young chairman was unveiled recently at a ceremony to welcome the visit of Cuba’s president, but none have appeared in public since. And unlike his father and grandfather, Kim’s Jan. 8 birthday has yet to be declared a national holiday or even marked on most calendars.
None of that should be assumed to be a sign of weakness, however. It could in fact indicate strength.
Kim is generally afforded the same reverential treatment by the state media and for maintaining a respectful step behind his predecessors, he is credited with showing humility and confidence.


US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 33 min 30 sec ago
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US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."