North Korea ruling party called to endorse dynastic rule

Reuters News
|
Posted: Feb 20, 2012 2:38 AM
North Korea ruling party called to endorse dynastic rule

By Jeremy Laurence and Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Secretive North Korea's ruling Workers' Party will hold a special conference in April, state media said on Monday, during which it is expected to formalize a third generation of Kim dynastic rule.

KCNA news agency reported the meeting would "glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats" of late leader Kim Jong-il and rally around "great successor" Kim Jong-un.

Since his father's death in December, the young Kim has assumed the title of "supreme commander" and has focused on shoring up support from the powerful military.

Analysts say Kim, who is believed to be in his late 20s, now needs the party's backing to keep North Korea stable and to expand his power base.

The conference could confer key party posts on the young Kim, such as a general secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission, experts say.

Chung-in Moon of Yonsei University said the party had been resuscitated in the later years of Kim Jong-il's leadership.

"The party now has more power and influence," he said. "There is speculation that under Kim Jong-un there will be a more normalized pattern of governance around the party."

The meeting, to be held in mid-April, will come around the time of the centenary of state founder Kim Il-sung's birth, which the destitute North has planned to mark as the launch of a new era as a "strong and prosperous nation."

The party last met in September 2010 when Kim Jong-un was given senior political and military titles confirming a third generation of dynastic rule.

That meeting was the first of its kind in more than 30 years. Experts said the conference was reserved for making official moves in the leadership hierarchy.

The young Kim has so far appeared at ease in his new role and has the backing of his uncle as well as the military chief.

Beijing, the North's main ally and benefactor, has endorsed the succession process, while Seoul and Washington have stated they wish only for a smooth a transition of power.

MORE RHETORIC, MORE TALK

Seoul says the new leadership in the North presents an opportunity for reconciliation, but Pyongyang has refused to talk with the South's conservative government which cut aid to its neighbor four years ago.

Continuing its fiery rhetoric of the past four years, the North threatened "merciless retaliatory strikes" if the South violated its territorial waters during a live-fire military drill near a disputed border off the west coast on Monday.

The South said Monday's drill was a routine exercise, and had passed without any unusual activity from the North.

While animosity still runs deep between the Koreas, who are still technically at war having signed only a truce to end the 1950-53 civil conflict, regional powers are pushing for dialogue.

Washington hopes to clarify whether Pyongyang's new leadership is willing to curb its nuclear programs when U.S. and North Korean officials meet in Beijing this week.

Analysts expect little progress at Thursday's meeting, the third between the two sides in the last eight months. They say the North will also likely seek food aid.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)