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Report: North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to attend NAM summit in Tehran

TEHRAN, IRAN (BNO NEWS) -- North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, will attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Iranian capital of Tehran next week, a spokesman for the organization told an Iranian news website on Wednesday. It would be Kim's first foreign visit as leader.

The Sixteenth Summit of the NAM member states will be held from August 26 through August 31 in Tehran under the chairmanship of the Iranian government. NAM has 120 members and its objective is to promote and accelerate development in developing countries so they become equal partners in international relations.

Mohammad Reza Forqani, a spokesman for the summit, told the Tabnak news website that Kim will attend. "North Korea will participate in the summit meeting and the North Korean leader will travel to Tehran," Forqani told the news website. "There has always been an excellent level of relations between Iran and North Korea. (Kim Jong-un's) presence in Tehran shows the two countries' willingness to strengthen their bilateral relations and cooperation."

NAM officials were not immediately available for comment and North Korea's state-run media has not yet reported on the visit, which would be Kim's first foreign visit as North Korea's leader.

Kim Jong-un was promoted to Supreme Leader in December 2011 to lead the impoverished and secretive country. It came days after his father, Kim Jong-il, died on December 17 after suffering an 'advanced, acute myocardial infarction, complicated with a heart shock,' while on a train for a 'field guidance tour'.

Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who was educated in Switzerland and is believed to be in his late 20s, making him the youngest head of state in the world. He reportedly resembles his father the most and has always been the favorite among his three sons, but the sudden death of Kim Jong-il left the North Korean government with little time to prepare him.

Last month, a report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) mentioned Kim Jong-un has married Ri Sol-ju. Other details about Ri or the marriage were not released, but South Korean lawmakers sad the couple is believed to have married in 2009. They also said Ri is 23-years-old and attended Geumsung's Second Middle School before going to China to study singing.

Speculation about a possible wife had begun several weeks earlier when state-run media showed footage of a young woman accompanying Kim, but it did not identify her. One video showed the couple walking in front of nearly two dozen senior military officials while a photograph showed Ri sitting next to Kim at a musical concert.

Kim and Ri were seen touring the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in video and photos released by KCNA last month. Some of the photos showed Ri holding Kim's hand while others showed the leader greeting enthusiastic-looking visitors at the amusement park. Two photos and videos also showed Kim trying out one of the park's rides.

Analysts said the footage shows Kim as a benevolent leader who cares about his people in a more affectionate and direct manner, different from his father Kim Jong-il who appeared very reserved and somewhat disconnected in public. The young Kim also appears much more communicative and exudes confidence despite his young age and inexperience, something which is likely to impress North Koreans and have positive effects over time, analysts at the International Crisis Group think-thank said last month.

The announcement of the marriage came just days after a brief government statement said North Korean military chief Ri Yong Ho had been relieved of his official posts during a meeting in Pyongyang. It said Ri, 69, was relieved of his duties due to an unspecified illness, although the reclusive state has previously used illnesses and accidents as a pretext to get rid of high-ranking officials. Others have simply vanished unannounced.

Ri was appointed chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in 2009 and had since been one of the most senior officials in North Korea. He frequently accompanied the new Supreme Leader leader, Kim Jong-un, and previously leader Kim Jong-il until he died in December 2011.

Ri's last known public appearance was on July 8 when he attended a remembrance concert commemorating the 18th death anniversary of Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country from December 1972 until July 1994 and was later named Eternal President of the Republic. Kim Il-sung was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il, who in turn was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.

Ri appeared to be healthy in recent public appearances, raising questions among analysts who believe Kim Jong-un may be purging the ruling elite as he attempts to put his own mark on the impoverished nation he inherited when his father died. On July 17, the military named little-known Hyon Yong Chol as the army's new vice marshal.

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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