Asia-Pacific

North Korea parliament silent on Kim Jong-un succession

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (C) visits the Amnokgang Tyre Factory; undated picture released by KCNA 7 April 2011
Image caption KCNA released this undated image of Kim Jong-il, centre, on the day parliament met

A rare session of North Korea's parliament, seen as an opportunity to reveal more about political succession, has failed to mention leader Kim Jong-il or a son tipped to replace him.

Observers had been looking for clues that the son, Kim Jong-un, would lead a smooth transition as his father ails.

But state media made no mention of either man.

The rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly agreed to "remarkably increase" production.

Analysts of North Korea's opaque politics had thought Kim Jong-un would be appointed to the National Defence Commission.

However, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention whether Kim Jong-il or his 28-year-old son attended the session, nor did it include the younger Kim in its mention of appointments.

The previous session of parliament, in June last year, oversaw the appointment of Jang Song Thaek, the brother-in-law of Kim Jong-il, to one of the defence commission's several vice chairmanships.

Great and prosperous

This time, official reports said only that one of several deputy prime ministers, Ri Thae-Nam, was sacked for "health reasons".

Prime Minister Choe Yong-Rim stressed the need to meet grain harvest targets "to bring about a decisive turn in improving the standard of people's living".

Deputy prime minister and finance minister Pak Su-Gil promised "huge funds" to develop industry and agriculture.

Legislators agreed to concentrate on becoming "a great, powerful and prosperous nation" by 2012.

April 2012 is the centenary of the birth of late President Kim Il-sung, father of the current leader.

This parliamentary session is the first major national meeting since the youngest son, Kim Jong-un, made his political debut.

He was made a four-star general last September and took a leading role in the ruling Worker's Party.

His predicted appointment to the defence body would have cemented the succession process, and made him the country's second most powerful man.

Meanwhile, talks on the larger issue of ending the North's nuclear programme remain stalled by South Korea's call for a "heartfelt apology" from Pyongyang for what Seoul calls two acts of aggression by the North.