, SEOUL, Dec 31 – North Korea said Saturday its new leader Kim Jong-Un has formally been appointed supreme commander of the 1.2 million-strong military, in another sign he is rapidly tightening his grip on power.
Jong-Un had already been declared “supreme leader” of the country during memorial ceremonies for his late father Kim Jong-Il on Thursday, as the nation ended 13 days of mourning.
“The dear respected Kim Jong-Un… assumed the supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army at the behest of leader Kim Jong-Il,” according to the official news agency.
It said the decision was proclaimed Friday at a meeting of the political bureau of the ruling party’s central committee.
Jong-Un, aged in his late 20s, was made a four-star general in September 2010 and given important party posts as his father groomed him for the country’s second dynastic succession.
He was swiftly proclaimed “great successor” after Kim senior died of a heart attack on December 17 at the age of 69.
Reports following his father’s death suggested Jong-Un was already in control of the armed forces. But Saturday’s statement was the first official confirmation of his accession to the role.
Jong-Un inherits the world’s fourth largest armed forces and a national policy known as Songun that prioritises its welfare over that of civilians.
During Thursday’s memorial service, ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-Nam told a vast crowd in Pyongyang that the country under its new chief would “march firmly along the path of Songun taught by great leader Kim Jong-Il”.
The meeting Friday of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) “underlined the need to hold Kim Jong-Un in high esteem as the only centre of unity, cohesion and leadership of the WPK, devotedly defend him politically and ideologically and give fuller play to the might of the political and ideological power”, the news agency said.
With the world eyeing the new regime for any signs of change, the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation delivered a warning Friday that it would not be altering course.
We “solemnly declare with confidence that the south Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change”, said a statement from the National Defence Commission, the top decision-making body.
The North said it would never have dealings with the current conservative South Korean government, which it designates as “traitors”, and harshly criticised Seoul for perceived slights during the mourning process for Kim.
“We will surely force the group of traitors to pay for its hideous crimes committed at the time of the great national misfortune,” it said.
A “sea of tears” shed by the North’s army and people would “turn into that of retaliatory fire to burn all the group of traitors”.
Despite the bellicose language, analysts said the North was warning the world against any interference during the transition and that the chance of any provocation was low.
North Korea also announced Saturday that it would issue gold and silver coins to mark the 20th anniversary of late leader Kim Jong-Il’s appointment as military commander.
The North’s official news agency made the announcement minutes after saying that Jong-Un had taken over the post.
It said the coins would mark the former leader’s “immortal achievements”.