North Korea military parade shows leader's succession on course
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il flanked by his son reviewed a military parade of goose-stepping North Korean soldiers in Pongyang's central square on Friday, underlining a planned third generation of dynastic rule is on track.
Kim and his son Kim Jong-un marked the 63rd anniversary of the state's founding standing atop a dais as troops, multiple rockets launchers, howitzers, and other weapons passed by and thousands of people thronged the square waving red and pink bouquets of what looked like paper flowers.
A giant portrait of the state's founder and "eternal president" Kim Il-sung was carried by the soldiers.
The two Kims applauded and briefly chatted during the parade on national television, which analysts said a clear signal to the public as the country flexed its military power.
"If there is a war again on this land, these weapons will bring destruction on our enemies," a commentator said on Korean state television.
"Our army will show the foreigners the strength and might of this great country."
Analysts say the younger Kim will likely maintain the same militaristic policies as his father, and continue to pursue the reclusive state's nuclear and missile building programs which have been condemned by the outside world.
Earlier in the day, the elder Kim, wearing his favored Mao-style Khaki suit and sunglasses, and his son paid their respects at the massive mausoleum of the state founder, Kim Il-sung, who launched a war to unify the Korean peninsula between 1950 to 1853 and ended in stalemate.
Kim Jong-un, his youngest son who is believed to be in his late 20s, was last year made a four-star general and given a prominent role in the ruling party amid speculation that his father's poor health had set in motion the succession process.
But the elder Kim, 69, has made four trips abroad in the past 18 months in what experts say is a sign of his improving health and a possible slowdown in the succession process. He is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008.
The young Kim, made his first public appearance last October at a military parade alongside his father, and has accompanied the state's leader on many so-called "field guidance" visits around the country this year.
Little is known about Kim Jong-un except that he was educated in Switzerland and that he enjoys watching American basketball.
Tensions between the two Koreas rose to their highest levels in nearly two decades last year when 50 South Koreans were killed in two separate attacks on the peninsula.
In between the attacks, the North unveiled a uranium enrichment facility which opens a second route to make an atomic bomb along with its plutonium program.
This further alarmed the United States, South Korea and Japan which want the country to abandon nuclear weapons in return for diplomatic recognition and aid through now stalled six-party talks that include the country's main backer, China, and northern neighbor Russia.
The elder Kim has told both China and Russia he is willing to return to denuclearization talks "without precondition."
But Seoul, Washington and Tokyo say that Pyongyang must show it is serious about denuclearizing. Analysts say it is unlikely to give up efforts to build an atomic arsenal it sees as a bargaining tool with the outside world.
(Reporting by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Ed Lane)