North Korea will shift to collective rule from a strongman dictatorship after last week’s death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, although his untested young son will be at the head of the ruling coterie, a source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing said.
The source added that the military, which is trying to develop a nuclear arsenal, has pledged allegiance to the untested Kim Jong-un, who takes over the family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since it was founded after World War II.
The source declined to be identified, but has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about the North’s first nuclear test in 2006 before it took place.
The comments are the first signal that North Korea is following a course that many analysts have anticipated — it will be governed by a group of people for the first time since it was founded in 1948. Both Kim Jong-il and his father, former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, were all-powerful, authoritarian rulers.
The situation in North Korea appeared stable after the military gave its backing to Kim Jong-un, the source said.
“It’s very unlikely,” the source said when asked about the possibility of a military coup. “The military has pledged allegiance to Kim Jong-un.”
North Korea’s collective leadership will include his uncle, Kim Jong-un, and the military, the source said.
Jang Song-thaek, 65, brother-in-law of Kim Jong-il and the younger Kim’s uncle, is seen as the power behind the throne along with his wife, Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-il’s sister. So too is Ri Yong-ho, the rising star of the North’s military and currently its most senior general.
The younger Kim, who is in his late 20s, has his own supporters, but is not strong enough to consolidate power, analysts said.
“I know that he’s been able to build a group of supporters around himself who are of his generation,” said president of the Korean Association of North Korean Studies in Seoul, Koh Yu-hwan,.
“So it is not entirely elders in their 70s, plus some like Jang in their 60s, who are backing him. These young backers will be emerging fairly soon,” he added.
Koh said the coterie was put in place by Kim Jong-il before he died.
“The relative calm seen these few days shows it’s been effective. If things were not running smoothly, then we’d have seen a longer period of ‘rule by mummy,’ with Kim Jong-il being faked as still being alive,” he said.
The high-level source also said that North Korea test-fired a missile on Monday to warn the US not to make any moves against it. However, Pyongyang had no immediate plans for further tests, barring an escalation of tensions.
Beijing, the North’s closest ally and biggest provider of aid, has pulled out the stops to support the younger Kim.
The government has invited him to visit, and in an unusual gesture, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) also visited the hermit state’s embassy in Beijing to express their condolences.