SEOUL, JULY 11 -- Kim Jong Il, the mysterious man who may become the next dictator of communist North Korea, made his first public appearance in weeks tonight, presiding over an elaborately emotional mourning ceremony beside the glass-covered coffin of his father, longtime ruler Kim Il Sung.

A brief videotape from Pyongyang's state-run television showed the 52-year-old wearing a black armband on his gray Mao suit and weeping into a large handkerchief, with the nation's top military leadership and the prime minister gathered around him at the luxurious Presidential Palace where Kim Il Sung lies in state.

The family members who some experts believe might be competing for power -- the late dictator's second wife, Kim Song Ae, and her son -- -- were not seen in the video.

Again today, North Korean broadcasts referred to Kim Jong Il with such titles as "Excellency" and "Great Leader," appellations previously reserved for his father, the only ruler North Korea has had since the Korean Peninsula split into two countries in 1945.

But there was still no formal announcement that the younger Kim has successfully taken control of the hermit state, with its million-member military force. South Korean officials said a formal declaration could be made in days, weeks or never, depending on how successfully the son maneuvers.

South Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung Joo said experts in Seoul believe Kim Jong Il is "most likely" to take over from his father. But Han said that the absence of a clear decision so far makes South Korea somewhat wary of the prospects that a previously scheduled North-South summit can be held anytime soon.

A summit between Kim Il Sung and South Korean President Kim Young Sam -- the first such session since 1945 -- -had been set for July 25. On Monday, the North sent a brief notice saying that the summit must be "postponed" because of Kim's death.

On Saturday, South Korean officials said they would be willing to go ahead with a meeting as soon as the North names a new president. But today Han was more reserved, indicating that the South will not agree to a summit until a North Korean leader can demonstrate actual control.

"If and when a new environment that is conducive to holding a summit arises, discussions for the inter-Korean summit will resume," Han said.

Plans for the long-awaited summit session "maybe will go back to square two," Han added. That means, he said, that "the principle" of a summit is still in place but that "a new negotiation will have to take place" between the two Koreas about the time and conditions for a summit, after the North's power transition is complete.

Han said that North Korea's high-level talks with the United States in Geneva, centered on North Korea's secret stockpile of plutonium, the basic fuel of nuclear weapons, would also be delayed indefinitely. "We have obviously lost a few days to a few weeks in Geneva, as the North Korean delegation has to go back to Pyongyang and wait until after the funeral {of Kim Il Sung} for its directions," he said.

The Geneva talks had been underway for one day when they were stopped by Kim's death. The 82-year-old ruler, who had appeared to visitors to be in excellent health, died early Friday. Radio Pyongyang attributed the death to a heart attack.

Han said today that South Korea has seen "nothing that contradicts the announcement of the cause of death." Some officials earlier had speculated that the late Kim might have been the victim of a palace coup, perhaps by hard-liners in his government who opposed his recent moves toward negotiation with the United States and South Korea.

One reason for the doubts is that Pyongyang has said that no foreigners will be admitted to North Korea for the funeral next Sunday; Kim Il Sung loved gathering world leaders for his birthdays and other celebrations.

Just three weeks ago, Kim proudly hosted a visit by former president Jimmy Carter, who served as a go-between in arranging the North-South summit. But according to Han and other South Korean officials, Carter was rebuffed Saturday when he contacted Pyongyang and asked about attending the funeral.

Today in Pyongyang, foreign ambassadors were allowed to view the body. One of the diplomats, contacted by telephone, said ambassadors, military attaches and a few others were summoned to the presidential palace and waited for four hours before being allowed to view the coffin.

The Naewoo Press, a South Korean publishing company that monitors North Korea broadcasts, said the North had complained about violations of its airspace over the weekend by the U.S. military. The broadcasts from Pyongyang reportedly complained that an RC-135 spy plane had been photographing North Korea just after the late dictator's death was announced.

The South Korean government, meanwhile, was enmeshed in a controversy similar to one in Washington over official condolences to the people of North Korea.

When President Clinton expressed sympathy, Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) criticized him sharply because Kim Il Sung was the man who started the Korean War. Today in Germany, Clinton defended his comments.

"The statement that I issued was brief, to the point and appropriate and very much in the interest of the United States," Clinton said.

"It is a fact that after years and years of isolation and a great deal of tension arising out of the nuclear questions, we began talks again with the North Koreans on the day that Kim Il Sung died ... and I would think that the veterans of the Korean War and their survivors, as much as any group of Americans, would very much want us to resolve this nuclear question with North Korea and to go forward."

Clinton said he had no "pie-in-the-sky optimism" about North Korea, but he characterized as "good news" indications that the North would resume the nuclear talks and reschedule the summit.

Here in Seoul, members of the chief opposition party suggested that South Korea offer condolences to the North, but the ruling party said there was no plan to express official sympathy for the leader who had invaded the South.

Staff writer Thomas W. Lippman added from Washington:

Winston Lord, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, stressed in a State Department briefing Monday that the United States has detected no signs of threatening activity from North Korea or disorder in Pyongyang in the days since Kim's death.

"There's no unusual {military} activity in North Korea, no abnormal exercises," he said. "... American troops are not on alert."

In photo from North Korean television, Kim Jong Il, third from right, leads funeral service for his father, Kim Il Sung -- a sign the younger Kim will succeed the nation's "Great Leader."