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Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi said Oct. 8 that it will be difficult to judge any immediate changes in North Korean policy under the new leadership of Kim Jong Il and that developments in the communist state will be closely watched.Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka echoed Obuchi’s assessment.Commenting on Kim’s official ascension to leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea, a Foreign Ministry official said Tokyo hopes North Korea will cooperate with the international community and that its domestic situation will stabilize under Kim’s leadership. The official said he will be closely watching how Kim handles the proposed four-party peace talks with China, the United States and South Korea, as well as negotiations with Japan on normalizing diplomatic ties.Although policies under Kim are unclear, he will probably not implement drastic changes because he has already effectively been ruling the country since the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, in July 1994, the official said.Meanwhile, a senior ministry official said the nomination of Kim as party chief will clarify who is in charge in North Korea. The unnamed official said he is watching whether Kim will meet delegates of Japan’s ruling coalition, which is expected to visit North Korea late this month at the earliest.

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