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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
No. 3 son readied to succeed Kim
Next nuke test may signal ailing leader's exit
By ALEX MARTIN
Kim Jong Un, third son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, is currently holding a low-ranking position within the National Defense Commission in preparation to succeed his father, according to recently obtained information from sources in Beijing close to the Pyongyang leadership.
The sources also expect the North to test a long-range ballistic missile and conduct another nuclear test before officially declaring Kim Jong Un as Kim Jong Il's successor.
Kim Jong Un joined the commission in April after the Supreme People's Assembly was held earlier in the month and he has been accompanying his father wherever he goes on his well-known "on the spot guidance tours," the sources said.
Little is known about the third son except that he attended an international school in Switzerland and is about 25 years old.
Sources also said senior members of the commission are rushing to cast charismatic images of Kim Jong Un to present him as the rightful heir to Kim Jong Il, whose health is believed deteriorating significantly.
Pyongyang's recent missile launch and May 25 underground nuclear test were originally scheduled for September or October but were moved up due to the leader's health concerns, the sources said, adding the tests were intended to be recognized as Kim Jong Un's accomplishments in a bid to establish his internal authority.
Propaganda also appears to be swirling that Kim Jong Un graduated from seven universities, in a bid to enhance his "mythical image."
Lee Young Hwa, a Kansai University economics professor and an expert on the reclusive state, said he expects the North to conduct a new round of missile and nuclear tests should the hermit state be slapped with fresh U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Washington is considering leveling its own financial sanctions.
"If the sanctions are imposed, the North will retaliate by firing more missiles, and if that draws further international condemnation — which it likely will — Pyongyang will respond by another nuclear test," Lee said, adding he expects Kim Jong Un to be officially declared the new leader immediately after the atomic test.
Lee also said he believes Kim Jong Un works under Ri Myong Su, 72, a veteran general of the Korean People's Army who now heads a bureau at the National Defense Commission.
Pyongyang threatened Monday to retaliate with a "super-hardline" response if the U.N. imposes sanctions.
The North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Pyongyang will consider any sanction "a declaration of war and will take due corresponding self-defense measures."