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North Korea tells world to 'expect no change'

Kim Jong-un, pictured on 29 December 2011 North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un is an unknown quantity - making neighbours worried.

North Korea has told the international community not to "expect any change" in the wake of Kim Jong-il's death.

The message came in a statement carried by state media and attributed to the powerful National Defence Commission.

"We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us," it said.

Kim Jong-il died on 17 December of a heart attack, state media said.

He had ruled North Korea since the death of his father Kim Il-sung in 1994. Under him funds were channelled to the military and North Korea conducted two nuclear tests.

His son, Kim Jong-un, has been named "supreme leader of the party, state and army".

'Unforgivable'

North Korea's neighbours are watching to see whether the leadership change will affect Pyongyang's ties with the international community.

The impoverished communist state remains technically at war with South Korea and is isolated on the international stage because of its dire human rights record and pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Six-nation talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions - involving the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan - have been stalled for months.

The statement from the NDC - which is thought to be the country's top decision-making body - said North Korea would "never deal" with South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak.

Mr Lee has angered Pyongyang by linking the provision of aid to progress on denuclearisation.

The NDC also criticised Seoul's "unforgivable" decision to allow only two non-official delegations to cross the border to pay their respects to Mr Kim.

Diplomatic flurry

Amid regional concern, the US is to send one of its top diplomats to East Asia to discuss the situation in North Korea.

Kurt Campbell will hold talks in Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo from 3-7 January, the State Department said.

Mr Campbell, who is the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, will be the most senior US official to visit the region since Kim Jong-il died.

The US and South Korean defence chiefs, meanwhile, spoke for 20 minutes about issues on the Korean peninsula on Thursday.

The two "shared the view that peace and stability on the Korean peninsula is our overarching priority and agreed to maintain close co-operation and co-ordination in the weeks and months ahead", the Pentagon said in a statement.

On Thursday North Korea held a national memorial service for Kim Jong-il, ending the period of mourning.

Hundreds of thousands of North Korean troops and citizens lined up for the ceremony in Pyongyang's main square.

Top party and military officials hailed Kim Jong-un, the young and politically inexperienced new leader, in front of the huge crowd.  - BBC

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