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North Korea Commemorates Anniversary of Kim Jong Il's Death

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, attends an event to mark the second anniversary of the death of his father, former leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Dec. 17, 2013.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un led events commemorating the second anniversary of his father's death Tuesday, just days after the execution of an uncle who was thought to be his mentor and second in command.

Kim joined other top military and political leaders at a somber memorial service at a Pyongyang auditorium, where an image of his father, ex-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, hung on stage.

Some speakers pledged unwavering loyalty to the Kim dynasty, promising to protect the country with their lives and saying that the country has made progress since the younger Kim took over.

The elder Kim died unexpectedly in December 2011, leaving power to his young and inexperienced son, who has recently been replacing some of the country's top leaders in an effort to consolidate power.

Last week, Pyongyang announced the execution of Jang Song Thaek, a powerful figure who had been viewed as a mentor to the younger Kim following his father's death.

Jang, who was married to Kim Jong Il's sister Kim Kyong Hui, was accused of trying to overthrow the state, along with a series of other abuses, such as corruption, womanizing and drug use.

Many disagree about what the development means for the notoriously secretive North Korean leadership, but most Korea watchers were surprised at Pyongyang's acknowledgement of dissension within its ranks.

North Korea's neighbors, meanwhile, are watching closely for possible military provocations from the North. South Korean defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Tuesday said it is "highly likely" that Pyongyang will do this between late January and early March.

"They may try to partially strengthen the sole leadership with the reign of terror, but anxiety of North Korean people and other power groups will grow. Making a military provocation is a conventional way to relive the anxiety," said Kim.

North Korea has already conducted three nuclear weapons tests in recent years, and held several long-range missile launches, both of which are banned by United Nations sanctions.