There’s no doubt now that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is hoping to hand over power to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un. Yesterday saw what’s being described by many analysts as a kind of coming out for Jong-un, as he accompanied his father and top military and ruling party officials at a parade in Pyongyang marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party.
Having his son in attendance at the parade, which was broadcast live on state TV, was undoubtedly meant to offer a reassuring sense of continuity not just for fellow North Koreans, but also for the rest of the world—including key ally China. Indeed, among those in attendance at the parade was believed to be Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, who is reportedly in China to offer his country’s congratulations on the anniversary.
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Zhou’s attendance suggests China, which is now more interested in stability in its fellow communist neighbour than ideology, has offered at least tacit approval for the planned succession. Indeed, last week there were reports that Liu Yunshan, a Communist Party Central Committee member, told a high-level delegation North Korean delegation that China was ‘ready to work with the new leadership of the ruling Workers' Party.’
The Global Times reported, meanwhile, that:
‘Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, sent a congratulatory message to General Secretary of the WPK Kim Jong Il for the 65th anniversary of the party's founding.
‘The CPC highly cherishes the traditional China-DPRK friendship, and makes it an unswerving policy to continuously strengthen and develop bilateral friendly and cooperative ties, the message said.
‘“We are willing to make joint efforts with the DPRK side to continuously promote China-DPRK relations to a new and higher level,” Hu said.’
And it seems Chinese officials have already had a chance to see a little closer up the man they will be trying to promote these relations with. Earlier this week, AFP reported that the younger Kim (it’s a measure of how little we still know about him that no-one seems sure exactly how old he is, although 27 is the age usually given) accompanied his father during the two unofficial visits he made to China this year—by posing as his bodyguard.
AFP reported: ‘“Jong-Un, dressed in a suit, acted as if he was a bodyguard and accompanied Kim Jong-Il closely,” Yonhap quoted a source as saying, adding the trip would be used to showcase his loyalty to his father.
However, again quoting the source, it added that the ‘young protégé’ didn’t attend meetings with top officials in Beijing, such as the ones in May and August between Kim Jong-Il and Hu.