March 8, 2009 / 6:57 AM / 8 years ago

N.Korea vote may point to Kim successor

<p>A South Korean visitor and his daughter look at pictures of North Korean founder and late leader Kim Il-sung (L) and his son and current leader Kim Jong-il displayed at an observation post in Paju, about 45 km (28 miles) north of Seoul, March 8, 2009.Jo Yong-Hak</p>

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Koreans voted on Sunday in carefully controlled polls analysts say will help start grooming a successor to Kim Jong-il in leading a reclusive country at loggerheads with Washington over its nuclear program.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that 67-year-old Kim, thought to have suffered a stroke last August, has named his third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor.

Quoting unidentified sources, it said Kim Jong-un was running in the parliamentary election.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a trip to South Korea last month, called North Korea a tyranny but offered aid and a peace treaty if Pyongyang gave up efforts to build an atomic arsenal that poses one of the biggest risks to security in North Asia.

Swiss-educated Jong-un is thought to be about 26. Kim's oldest son Jong-nam mostly lives abroad and is seen as out of touch, while the second son is believed to lack the ambition, intelligence and ruthlessness of Jong-un, sources have said.

North Koreans are required by law to vote for the assembly and in previous polls have provided nearly 100 percent support for candidates approved by Pyongyang's leaders. The elections are used to realign the state's hierarchy.

Results of the ballot are due to be released on Monday.

The election of the 12th session of the assembly with a five-year mandate had been initially scheduled for August but was delayed after Kim Jong-il was thought to have fallen ill.

Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Sugita Katyal and Ralph Boulton

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