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Kim Jong Un could be in power by Saturday, expert says

TOKYO — There are a couple of important dates that might give the outside world an idea of what’s happening in North Korea, an expert on the communist regime said during a news conference Wednesday.

North Korea’s presumptive new leader, Kim Jong Un, could officially take over from his late father as early as Saturday, according to Hajime Izumi, professor of East Asian international politics at Japan’s University of Shizuoka. That day is considered auspicious because the late dictator was named supreme commander of the North Korean armed forces on Dec. 24, 1991. It is also the birthday of Kim Jong Il’s mother, Kim Jong Suk, Izumi told journalists in Tokyo.

The Workers’ Party Central Committee is expected to meet Saturday, and Kim Jong Un could be appointed to North Korea’s two most important positions — General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and Chairman of the National Defense Commission.

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If Kim does not receive those titles on Saturday, the next important date would be April 25, Izumi said.

That date marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People’s Army, which is planning a massive parade of personnel and military hardware.

“The scale of this parade will likely be something that has never been seen before,” Izumi said, adding that any move to scale back the event could signal a change in the nation’s “military first” policy.

Kim Jong Un must review the parade from a grandstand to show that he is the nation’s supreme leader, he said. As it stands now, Kim is not even the top-ranking military officer in North Korea.

If Kim — who was made a general last year and has limited connections with the military — doesn’t review the parade it could be a sign that a power struggle is under way in North Korea, Izumi said.

Some experts say Kim Jong Il’s sudden death has left a power vacuum in North Korea.

Reuters news agency quoted an anonymous source Wednesday saying with no military strongman, North Korea would be ruled by collective leadership, including Kim Jong Un, his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and the military. Jang, 65, the brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il, was named in 2009 to the National Defence Commission.

“The question is whether the military will be able to come to an agreement that they will have Kim Jong Un on top as a figurehead,” he said. “There is a possibility that leadership in the military may become divided and there may be a power struggle.”

robsons@pstripes.osd.mil

 

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