North Korea has credited heir-apparent Kim Jong-un for his alleged key role in former US president Bill Clinton’s landmark visit to Pyongyang, Yonhap news agency reported yesterday, quoting North Korean officials.
“We praise Kim Jong-un for his leadership of audacity and wisdom that has led former president Clinton to fly into our country and apologize to our leader [Kim Jong-il],” Yonhap quoted North Korean officials saying.
It said North Korean officials described it as the “espionage case” involving two US reporters who returned home on Wednesday with Clinton after being detained in March for crossing into North Korea.
“Our General Kim Jong-un had prepared all of them and displayed superb and outstanding wisdom that made success possible,” North Korean officials were quoted as saying by Yonhap.
Clinton traveled to Pyongyang on Tuesday and obtained the release of the journalists after meeting Kim Jong-il.
Kim Jong-un, the 26-year-old youngest son of Kim Jong-il, is believed to be his father’s successor to head the military regime, but Pyongyang has not yet made an official announcement.
The virtual absence of a political track-record to support his rise to power has been mentioned by North Korean observers as one of the reasons why the regime has held off from officially anointing Kim Jong-un as its new leader.
Clinton’s visit may be leveraged to support the emergence of Kim Jong-un, analysts said.
Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be backed by a hardline collective leadership, has begun to take credit for most high-profile campaigns, such as the “150-day battle,” a rhetorical campaign begun in April to increase production and instill respect and fear in the regime.
The emergence of the 26-year-old Kim Jong-un to power is reminiscent of the 1968 Pueblo incident, in which the US-flagged ship was detained by North Korea.
The incident was assessed as a launch of the political career for then-26-year-old Kim Jong-il.