North Korean Defense Minister O Jin U, the No. 2 man in the country's ruling hierarchy, died early today of cancer at the age of 78, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
KCNA, monitored in Tokyo, said that O, a marshal of the Korean People's Army, died after a long illness from cancer. He had spent nearly six weeks late last year at Laennec Hospital in Paris for treatment of lung cancer.
An obituary published by the Workers' Party of Korea lauded O as a "revolutionary soldier intensely loyal to the great leader comrade Kim Il Sung, a very close revolutionary comrade-in-arms and comrade of the great leader comrade Kim Jong Il and a faithful son of our party and our people."
Radio Pyongyang said Kim Jong Il, leader of the Stalinist state after the death last year of his father, Kim Il Sung, would head the funeral committee for O. The funeral was scheduled for Wednesday.
Meanwhile, South Korea said today that this year's joint military exercises with the United States, code-named Team Spirit, would be shelved as a gesture of conciliation to the North.
The Defense Ministry in Seoul said in a statement the two sides had agreed to cancel the 1995 round of the massive war games to give the nuclear deal that Washington and North Korea struck in Geneva last October a chance to flower.