North Korea Burnishes New Ruler's Credentials

North Korea Burnishes New Ruler's Credentials
North Korea today added an important title to the fast-growing credentials of its untested new ruler, referring to the youngest son of late leader Kim Jong-Il as head of a key ruling party body.

In a move that experts said shows the successor is on track to take full control of the secretive nation, the ruling party newspaper hailed Jong-Un as head of its Central Committee.

"Let's stake our lives to safeguard the party's Central Committee led by dear comrade Kim Jong-Un," Rodong Sinmun said.

Jong-Un, in his late 20s, has already been touted as "great successor" and "supreme commander" of the military since his father died on December 17 of a heart attack at the age of 69.

Usually the head of the Central Committee -- a top decision-making body -- is also its general secretary, a position previously held by Kim Jong-Il.

"Jong-Un has not officially taken over as general secretary, but he is expected to inherit it and other posts held by his father," Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-Hyun told AFP.

The late Kim also chaired the all-powerful National Defence Commission and headed the 1.19 million-strong military.

Officially, Jong-Un's current highest post is vice-chairman of the party's Central Military Commission.

The North's official media heaped more praise on Jong-Un, describing him as a "tender-hearted man" who sent hot, sweet drinks to mourners braving freezing conditions in the capital Pyongyang.

The isolated state is making final preparations for what is expected to be an elaborate funeral for Kim on Wednesday that will be closely watched for clues about the powers at the side of the new ruler.
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