SEOUL — North Korea's Kim Jong-Il has suspended a propaganda campaign to promote his youngest son as future leader after apparently winning the regime's support for the succession plan, analysts say.
After securing acceptance of Jong-Un's position as eventual heir, Kim may be concerned not to weaken his own authority in the interim, they say.
Succession speculation began in earnest after Kim, now 67, suffered a stroke around August 2008.
For months afterwards the hardline communist state made a series of bellicose moves, including missile launches and a nuclear test.
US and South Korean officials said they suspected the ailing leader was staging a show of strength as he tried to put a succession plan in place.
In early August the regime began a series of peace overtures, starting with a pardon for two jailed US journalists after former president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang.
Cheong Seong-Chang of Seoul's Sejong Institute think-tank said the conciliatory moves "reveal Kim's confidence that the son has firmly established his position."
Clinton spent three hours with Kim and found him "unexpectedly spry," the New York Times reported.
"Kim, who is believed to have recovered his health to some extent, appears to be no longer concerned about a power struggle," Dongguk University professor Koh Yu-Hwan told AFP.
"That means, in other words, that the regime has regained stability. Now Jung-Un's position (as heir) appears to be firmer than before."
The regime in July instructed officials not to speak openly about the succession, said Lee Seung-Yong, director of Good Friends, a South Korean welfare group which has extensive contacts in the North.
The instructions said Kim was strong enough to control the country for a decade and was energetically involved in state affairs, he said.
"It reflects concerns that conspicuous propaganda activities regarding Jung-Un may weaken Kim's power," Lee told AFP.
The Daily NK, a Seoul-based web newspaper run by activists, quoted sources as saying Pyongang had issued decrees banning a song entitled "Footsteps" aimed at instilling loyalty towards the 26-year-old son.
The lyrics were previously on the bulletin board of every factory and state enterprise but had been quietly removed, the newspaper said.
It quoted a provincial propaganda secretary as saying officials were ordered to carry out the campaign promoting the succession "quietly and internally."
Yang Moo-Jin, of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, said the regime may be making quiet preparations for Jong-Un's public debut, maybe in late September or October.
"I believe Pyongyang is waiting for the right opportunity to announce Jung-Un's nomination as successor," Yang said.
Alternatively Kim is trying to show his people that he himself firmly controls state affairs by dropping the propaganda, he added.
While he appears to have won over the regime, Kim may have suspended the propaganda because he needs more time to sell Jong-Un to the general public, some analysts believe.
"Kim has yet to dispel public concerns about Jung-Un's leadership because the son is still young and ordinary North Koreans do not know him well," Cheong said.
So the leader may need time for the son to cement his position in the public's eyes as undisputed successor, he said.
The regime is "in the process of leadership transition but it may not be as rushed as we all thought," according to Victor Cha, a former US National Security Council staffer and negotiator with Pyongyang.
Cha, in an interview for the US Council on Foreign Relations, said the Clinton trip appeared to indicate Kim was in control and in better health than earlier believed.
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