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Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday December 18, 2013 MYT 9:18:43 AM
SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a mass gathering of military and party officials that was broadcast live on state television at a time of growing concern over the stability of his hardline regime.
The ceremony in central Pyongyang, marking the second death anniversary of Jong-un’s father and former leader Kim Jong-il, included a number of speeches that stressed unquestioning loyalty to the young supremo and included a stark warning to rival South Korea.
It followed the shock execution last week of Jong-un’s uncle and one-time political mentor, Jang Song-thaek.
The purge raised questions about factional infighting at the top of the North Korean hierarchy and prompted both Seoul and Washington to warn of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed regime.
State television showed the massed ranks of tens of thousands of military and party officials sitting stony-faced in pin-drop silence for several minutes, before rising to greet Jong-un with thunderous applause as he arrived to take his place on the leadership podium.
“We should be warriors to safeguard the party centre with our lives ... with the conviction that we know no one but the great comrade Jong-un,” North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, said in an opening address.
He added that the country had made “great strides” in the two years since Jong-un took over the reins of power after his father’s death.
Under Jong-un’s leadership, North Korea has successfully placed a satellite in orbit and in February this year conducted its third – and most powerful – nuclear test.
“By holding the respected comrade Jong-un in high esteem ... our country will prosper as the country of eternal sun,” Yong-nam said.
Yesterday’s mass meeting also heard a keynote address by top military leader Choe Ryong-hae – who some analysts believe had a hand in the ouster and execution of Jang.
“Our revolutionary forces know ... no one but comrade Jong-un,” said Choe, a close Jong-un confidant who holds the military rank of vice marshal and is director of the Korean People’s Army’s General Political Department
The military will support “our supreme commander, under any storms and hardships”, said Choe, who also fired off a warning at rival South Korea.
“If the enemies drop a single drop of fire on our motherland, our soldiers will immediately storm out to wipe out all the invaders and achieve unification,” he said.
At a meeting of top defence and national security officials on Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had warned that the recent leadership shake-up in the North could presage some aggressive behaviour from Pyongyang.
“We can’t rule out the possibility of contingencies such as reckless provocations,” Park said, urging the military to step up vigilance along the heavily fortified border.
Yesterday’s meeting came the day after a massive military rally in Pyongyang. — AFP
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