(AFP) – Feb 19, 2009
SEOUL (AFP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has promoted a renowned hawk to a top military post, signalling a continuing hard line against South Korea, according to analysts.
General O Kuk-Ryol was appointed vice chairman of the National Defence Commission, said an official statement published earlier Friday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The commission chaired by Kim is the country's most powerful body and controls the country's 1.1-million-strong military.
O replaced Vice Marshal Kim Yong-Chun, also known as a hawkish figure, who was promoted last week to armed forces minister.
O, born in 1931, is one of Kim's confidants and a "renowned hawk" who has advocated a hardline stance against South Korea, Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.
"His promotion is seen as another strong message towards South Korea," he said. "It is also aimed at enhancing stability in the military by appointing Kim's trusted old guard to a key post."
The North has scrapped all peace accords and threatened war with the South in protest at its conservative government, which has rolled back a policy of engagement with Pyongyang and near-unconditional aid.
As army chief in the late 1970s, O played a crucial role in helping Kim consolidate his grip on power as he prepared to succeed his father and then-president Kim Il-Sung, analysts said. The elder Kim died in 1994.
Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified high-ranking defector as saying O's son was a close friend of Kim's youngest and third son, 25-year-old Jong-Un.
Yonhap reported last month that Kim, who is widely believed to have suffered a stroke last August, had nominated Jong-Un as his successor in preference to the eldest Jong-Nam and the middle son Jong-Chul.
Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun carried a similar report Tuesday.
There have been no public indications in the past that one of his sons was being prepared for the succession.
Some analysts believe a collective military-party leadership will emerge if Kim dies or becomes incapacitated, with one of the sons as a figurehead leader.
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