September 28, 2010 09:17
North Korea's official media say ruler Kim Jong-il has named his youngest son as a military general. The [North] Korean Central News Agency announced the move on Tuesday, just hours before the start of the ruling party's biggest gathering in 44 years. It lends credence to predictions that the Workers' Party meeting will be used to prepare for an eventual transfer of power to Kim's third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un.
The agency said that Kim Kyong-hui, which is the name of Kim Jong-il's sister, was also promoted to the rank of general. Some experts have said she or her husband could be given a prominent post to help prepare the North Korean leader's son, who is only in his 20s, to take over power.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell told reporters that Washington is watching the developments carefully and will discuss them with its partners in the region. Campbell said it is too early to understand what is going on inside North Korea's leadership.
Analysts expect the delegates to fill a number of vacant posts and name younger officials to replace some elderly members.
Kim Jong-il is widely believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and he looked frail in photographs taken during meetings with foreign officials in the past few months.
The Workers' Party has not had a full party congress since 1980, and the conference of delegates has not met since 1966. Tuesday's conference of delegates is expected to be accompanied by the biggest military parade in North Korean history. The party marks the 65th anniversary of its founding next month.
Some information in this story was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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