S.Korea says no sign key N.Korea meeting has begun

South Korea said Wednesday there are no signs that a historic meeting of North Korea’s ruling party has begun, despite expectations it would start in the first half of this month.

The communist party conference is expected to put a new leadership line-up in place, and pave the way for an eventual succession from top leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son Jong-Un.

The secretive North has said only that the meeting would start in the first half of September to elect the “highest leading body” of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

The conference will be the North’s most important political meeting for three decades and the first gathering of its type for 44 years.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border issues, said it was watching closely for any signs of what spokesman Chun Hae-Sung called “a major political event”.

“So far, there is no media report from North Korea regarding the delegates’meeting and we have detected no signs of the opening of the event,” he said.

The North’s party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Tuesday that the “historic conference of party representatives and the 65th anniversary of the party’s foundation (on October 10) are drawing near”.

But it gave no starting date.

The meeting will be closely watched for leadership and policy changes and above all for signs that Kim, 68, is preparing the ground for a hereditary power transfer to Jong-Un.