Contingency plans: Kim Jong-un promotes nuclear and missile chiefs to inner circle in preparation of rocket launch

Sunday, April 8, 2012
By Paul Martin
April 7, 2012

NORTH KOREA – Their elevation to senior military ranks is being seen by diplomats and intelligence experts as a sign that he intends sticking to the hard-line path laid out by his late father, whom he succeeded three months ago. It comes ahead of a planned long-range rocket launch by North Korea this week which has led to Japan and South Korea putting their armed forces on high alert, with both threatening to shoot the missile down if it approaches their territory. North Korea warned on Saturday that it would retaliate with “merciless punishment” against any country that does so. The planned rocket launch has also scuppered a food-aid deal with the U.S. which might have helped millions of hungry North Koreans. The formal transfer of dynastic power to Kim, believed to be aged 28 or 29, will be confirmed this week at two set-piece gatherings in Pyongyang where he is expected to be named to posts held by his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in December. The Workers’ Party of Korea has called a special conference for Wednesday when he should be appointed its general secretary and two days later the rubber-stamp parliament is likely to name his as chairman of the national defense commission. Meanwhile Kim has surrounded himself with the officials who are planning the rocket launch that will mark next weekend’s 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim il-Sung. The new leader is modeling himself physically on his grandfather, from his paunchy figure to his haircut and clothes. A successful launch would burnish his image as the reincarnation of the man who was posthumously proclaimed “eternal president.” North Korea claims it is merely dispatching an “earth observation satellite” into space. But foreign intelligence agencies believe that the North’s goal is to conduct a banned test of long-range missile technology as it tries to develop a nuclear warhead that could reach Hawaii and Alaska. Iran, which has helped North Korea to develop its nuclear and missile programs, will also be watching closely. “It is clear that this young man is moving to consolidate his leadership in a very aggressive manner with these displays of strength,” said Victor Cha, who negotiated with North Korean leaders on behalf of President George W Bush’s National Security Council. -Telegraph

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