Preparations for ‘epochal’ meeting

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Preparations for ‘epochal’ meeting


A picture released by North Korea’s Central News Agency Tuesday and distributed by Tokyo’s Korea News Service Wednesday shows a meeting in Pyongyang to mark the 50th anniversary of the leadership of Kim Jong-il. [YONHAP/AFP]

North Korea has elected provincial delegates for a key meeting of the ruling Communist Party, state media said Thursday, in an apparent bid to pave the way for a third-generation dynastic succession.

The September convention is widely expected to appoint North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, to key party posts, signaling his likely designation as Kim Jong-il’s political heir.

Delegates were elected at meetings of city and county party officials, which declared that the September gathering would be “a landmark of an epochal turn in strengthening the party,” the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported.

It will be only the third such gathering since the Communist state was founded in 1948 and is seen as the most important party event since 1980, when Kim Jong-il was designated the eventual successor to his father and founding president, Kim Il-sung.

Speculation about a third-generation hereditary succession has intensified since Kim Jong-il, now 68, suffered a stroke in August 2008.

North Korean party members, government officials and soldiers have staged a series of rallies this month to pledge their loyalty to Kim Jong-il and demonstrate their fighting spirit amid high cross-border tensions.

Kim Yong-nam, the North’s nominal head of state, told a rally Tuesday that the army and the people would “never tolerate any reckless moves” by Seoul and Washington to provoke a nuclear war.

He said they would launch “a sacred retaliatory war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time they deem necessary as the toughest self-defensive measure to cope with them and thus mercilessly beat back the aggressors.”

South Korea’s defense ministry said a large number of soldiers, armored vehicles and artillery have been stationed near Pyongyang since July 12.

The deployment appears to be related to the September party meeting and the party’s 65th anniversary on Oct. 10, a ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Jung Chang-Hyun, a professor at Kookmin University, said Kim Jong-un may take up key party posts next month but will actually join its decision-making political bureau presidium in 2012.

“Joining the presidium will be the most significant step to become a de facto leader of the North ... and Jong-un is not yet prepared for that,” he said.

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