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North Korean Leader Chooses Successor Amid Signs of More Brinkmanship


The North Korean leader has apparently chosen person who will eventually succeed him. That news accompanies possible signs of North Korean mid-range missile tests, in addition to the long-range rocket the North may be planning to launch, later this month.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service disclosed to lawmakers in Seoul Tuesday North Korea's long-awaited plans for leadership in a future, post-Kim Jong Il era.

Youngest son

Intelligence analysts say the North Korean leader appears to have selected his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to take his place.

Relatively little is known about the younger Kim. He is 26 or 27 years old. He is the son of Kim Jong Il's third wife, Ko Yong Hee. He was sent to a private boarding school in Switzerland for part of his education. Media reports quote his schoolmates as saying he is a fan of NBA basketball - especially star athlete Michael Jordan.

Lee Sang-hyun, an international security analyst with South Korea's Sejong Institute, is among many scholars who believe North Korea's recent nuclear weapon test is linked to Kim Jong Il's plans for succession.

He says, if North Korea can become recognized as a nuclear weapons nation, it can demand more compensation from the United States at international disarmament talks. That, says Lee, would allow a more stable transition of power in the North.

More missile tests


The North's succession plans accompany what analysts say are actions consistent with test launch plans for medium and long-range missiles - possibly within the next few weeks.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak wrapped up a summit of Southeast Asian leaders Tuesday, saying the group agreed to cooperate more tightly on security issues like North Korea.

He says the leaders reaffirmed their commitments on getting rid of nuclear weapons, and called North Korea's nuclear test a serious threat to peace in Northeast Asia.

No sanctions


North Korea has warned of what it calls "additional defensive measures," if it is sanctioned for its recent nuclear test. South Korean defense officials say they are stepping up surveillance of the North's activities on land and at sea.

Seoul is particularly concerned about a disputed maritime area west of the Korean peninsula, where the two Koreas have fought two naval battles in the past ten years. North Korea has never recognized the United Nations-drawn sea border there and warned last week it could not "guarantee the safety" of American and South Korean ships there.

South Korea's navy has redeployed some of its top ships, included an Aegis class destroyer and a new guided missile ship with stealth capabilities, to the area. Bae Myung-woo is a South Korean navy spokesman.

He says South Korea will secure an overwhelming and predominant position of military power in its territorial waters. He says this will deter North Korea from any provocation at sea.

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