Saturday, February 24, 2018

N. Korea gives Kim new title as transition goes smoothly

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wednesday further burnished the credentials of Kim Jong Un, awarding him several new titles and all but finalizing the ascension of the young and untested leader.

Kim was named first secretary of the Workers' Party, a newly created position, the country's state-run media said. He was also made a standing member of the Politburo and elevated from vice chairman to chairman of the Central Military Commission, according to the Associated Press, citing Pyongyang's state media.

The moves came as the reclusive communist country held a rare Workers' Party meeting to begin a pivotal week in which it plans to celebrate the birth of its founder and launch a rocket in defiance of the West.

The North also named Kim's father, the late leader Kim Jong Il, the "eternal" general secretary of the party, a reflection of "the unanimous will and desire of all the party members and other people," state-controlled media reported.

The new titles for the younger Kim accelerates a speedy and apparently stable power transfer and formally puts him atop the Workers' Party, in a role comparable to that of his father, who held the title of general secretary.

Kim, thought to be in his late 20s, inherited leadership of the impoverished country after his father's death last December.

Kim Jong Il held his power through three primary positions — chairman of the National Defense Commission, general secretary of the Workers' Party and supreme commander of the military. Kim Jong Eun, before Wednesday, had received only the last of those titles.

Experts say he has become the country's uncontested leader.

But Kim Jong Eun will face serious tests in the weeks ahead, as he confronts the predicted international outrage over the North's satellite launch planned between today and Monday. Western nations say the launch is a cover for a long-range missile test that violates international sanctions.

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