N. Korea rallies support for new leader

Conspicuously absent from New Year editorial is any mention of North Korea's nuclear arms program.

New North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
New North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
SEOUL - North Korea in a policy-setting message for New Year called on its people to rally behind anointed successor Kim Jong-un by becoming "human shields" but made no mention of its nuclear arms program, the key source of regional security concern during his deceased father's reign.
The North's three main state newspapers said in "a joint editorial" published on Sunday that Kim Jong-un has legitimacy to carry on the revolutionary battle initiated by his grandfather Kim Il-sung and developed by his father Kim Jong-il, who died two weeks ago of a heart attack.
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"Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of our Party and our people, is the banner of victory and glory of Songun Korea and the eternal center of its unity," the joint editorial carried by the North's state KCNA news agency said.
"The dear respected Kim Jong-un is precisely the great Kim Jong-il. The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-un unto death."
The joint editorial assailed the South Korean government for pursuing confrontation and war maneuvers despite efforts by the North to reopen dialogue, and it repeated its demand for the withdrawal of the US military from the South.
But conspicuously absent from the 5,000-word New Year editorial was any mention of its nuclear arms program.
Momentum was building in diplomatic contacts between the North and the United States before the announcement of Kim Jong-il's death on Dec. 19, raising expectations that the two sides may be closer to reaching a compromise to restart stalled talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear program.
Those talks stalled in 2008 when Pyongyang balked at intrusive inspections of its nuclear sites under a 2005 deal by six countries including the United States and South Korea to give the impoverished North aid in return for disarmament.
Last week, in a fiery message that marked the first communication with the outside world since Kim Jong-il's death, the North's National Defense Commission, which is seen as the apex of power, declared it would not deal with the current government in the South.
The North's state media said on Saturday that Kim Jong-un has been officially appointed supreme commander of its 1.2-million strong military, two days after the official mourning for the dead leader ended in a move seen as a rush to solidify succession and boost the junior Kim's grip on power.
Kim Jong-un was named a four-star general and given the vice-chairmanship of the ruling party's Central Military Commission by his father in 2010.