PYONGYANG — North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-Un was named Wednesday to an apparent top ruling party post as the nation prepared mass celebrations -- including a rocket launch -- for a major anniversary.
The Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), at a rare special conference, declared Jong-Un its "first secretary", the official news agency said -- an apparently new title.
The conference, attended by Jong-Un, revised party rules and held the new leader "in high esteem at the top post of the party", it said.
His father Kim Jong-Il, who died last December, was declared "eternal" general secretary of the party, the post he had held in his lifetime.
Analysts said the twin announcements would bolster the authority of Jong-Un, aged in his late 20s, by stressing his status as dynastic successor.
The country is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth on April 15 of founding leader Kim Il-Sung, the late grandfather of the current ruler.
The North has started fuelling a rocket for a satellite launch scheduled sometime between Thursday and next Monday to mark the occasion.
The United States and other nations have strongly condemned the plan as a disguised ballistic missile test.
The conference "decided to hold Kim Jong-Il, the great leader of the WPK and the Korean people, in high esteem as eternal general secretary", the news agency said.
The decision was based on "the unanimous will and desire of all the party members and other people".
Jong-Un's new post was in line with his father's wishes, the agency said.
"All the participants paid highest tribute and extended warmest congratulations to him, loudly shouting 'Hurrah!' with immense excitement, joy and profound respect," it added.
His election was an expression of absolute support and trust, the agency said.
Paik Hak-Soon of South Korea's Sejong Institute said the regime created the new title to help the young leader control the party while continuing the legacy of his father.
Paik stressed the decision to leave the highest post permanently for the late leader did not indicate any weakening of Jong-Un's leadership.
"It's rather a smart move... to highlight Jong-Un's loyalty and love for his father and thus further legitimise his status as the latest protege of the ruling Kim dynasty," he told AFP.
Kim Jong-Il declared his own father and founding president Kim Il-Sung as the "eternal president" after Kim Il-Sung's death in 1994.
State TV showed Jong-Un and top party and military cadres visit Wednesday the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in the capital Pyongyang, where the two former leaders' embalmed bodies are placed, to pay tribute.
Jong-Un, dressed in black Mao suit, was seen bowing to smiling portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, along with dozens of officials including his aunt and four-star general Kim Kyong-Hui and military chief Ri Yong-Ho.
Pyongyang is to hold an annual session of its rubber-stamp parliament on Friday.
Some analysts say the meeting will likely elevate Jong-Un to chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC), the country's top decision-making body. The post was previously filled by his father.
"Having already left the chief party post reserved forever for his father, I think Jong-Un will likely assume the NDC chairmanship," said Paik, adding the young leader will be fully in power whether he takes the NDC post or not.
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