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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

North Koreans Bolster Power of Ruler’s Kin - NYTimes.com

Kim Jong-ilImage via WikipediaNorth Koreans Bolster Power of Ruler’s Kin - NYTimes.com
TOKYO — Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s supreme leader, took new steps on Tuesday to ensure that his family remains in charge after his death, but the biggest leadership shuffling in a generation has so far produced more political intrigue than signs of real change in North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated nations.
Mr. Kim elevated his sister and a close friend to a high military ranking and had his youngest son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, made a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party.
The promotions came a day after the younger Mr. Kim was also made a four-star general and seemed aimed at ensuring a dynastic succession that would give Mr. Kim, thought to be in his late 20s, time to solidify his power.
The elevation of the completely unknown Mr. Kim, and hints that other members of the extended Kim clan will exercise power behind the scenes in a kind of Communist regency, add to the uncertainty about North Korea. It appears to have mostly abandoned its incipient economic reforms and has declined to enter new international talks about its nuclear weapons program, leaving its neighbors and the United States alarmed about its intentions.
Few analysts claim to fully understand the inner workings of the North Korean military or the Kim dynasty. But many who watch the country closely say they see few signs that succession will produce a stable, credible leadership that is, at least initially, confident enough to engage with the outside world or to steer resources to economic development rather than the military.
“We worry about Pakistan, but this is potentially every bit as destabilizing as Pakistan,” said William R. Keylor, a professor of international relations at Boston University. “Succession in North Korea would just be an oddity if it were not for the fact that we are dealing with a country with nuclear weapons and delivery systems. That is what makes this serious.”

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