Aide of North Korean leader dies

A senior North Korean official who was one of leader Kim Jong Il's key aides has died, the North's media reported Sunday.

Yon Hyong Muk, vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, died Saturday of an "incurable disease," the North's Korean Central News Agency reported. He was 73.

The news agency gave no further details on the cause of Yon's death.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Yon suffered from pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery in Russia last November.

Yon was considered a key aide of leader Kim Jong Il and accompanied him on his infrequent overseas trips to China or Russia.

The defense commission is the communist North's most powerful organization and overseas the country's 1.1 million-member armed forces, the world's fifth largest.

"The death of comrade Yon Hyong Muk, who has upheld great achievements of our party with his burning loyalty and high abilities, is a big loss to our party and people," the commission said in a statement carried by KCNA.

Yon participated in high-level inter-Korean negotiations in the early 1990s which produced an agreement in 1992 in which the two rivals pledged to work to ease tension and promote peace, AP reported. V.A.

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