By Sung-won Shim
SEOUL, Dec 25 (Reuters) - North Korean state TV
footage on Sunday showed Jang Song-thaek, the power behind the
communist state's throne, wearing a military uniform with the
insignia of a general, another sign of his rising influence
after the death of Kim Jong-il.
The footage, which state TV said was taken on Saturday,
showed Jang at the front of rows of top military officers who
accompanied Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his
anointed successor, paying their respects in front of Kim's
North Korea announced on Monday Kim Jong-il had died of a
heart attack on Dec. 17. His body is lying in state in a
mausoleum in Pyongyang. He was believed to be 69.
His death sparked fears about succession in the reclusive
communist state, which has been ruled by Kim's family since
shortly after World War Two.
It also unnerved neighbours Japan and South Korea, as well
as Seoul's key ally, the United States, as they wait to see how
the succession plays out in the unpredictable hermit state.
Kim Jong-un was hailed by state media on Saturday as
"supreme commander" of the North's 1.1 million-strong armed
forces, the title held by his father.
While the younger Kim has been described as the "Great
Successor", a senior source told Reuters this week Pyongyang
will shift from a strongman dictatorship to a coterie of rulers
including the military and Jang, Kim Jong-un's uncle.
Kim Jong-un, in his late 20s, has also been called by his
official title of vice-chairman of the Central Military
Commission of the North's ruling party.
Jang married the daughter of the country's autocratic
founder, Kim Il-sung, in 1972, to join the ruling family.
A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it
was the first time Jang has been shown on state TV wearing a
military uniform. His appearance was interpreted as meaning he
has secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which
has pledged its allegiance to Kim Jong-un.
POWER BEHIND THE THRONE
Sources with close ties to North Korea and China have said
Jang is the real power behind Pyongyang's succession process.
North Korea's state media have geared up their propaganda
machine since Saturday in an apparent bid to smooth the untested
Kim Jong-un's succession and show his grip on the military,
which is trying to develop a nuclear arsenal.
The Japanese government will hold consultations with the
governments of prefectures along the coast of the Sea of Japan
to seek their support in accommodating North Koreans in case of
a possible flood of refugees, Kyodo News said on Saturday.
Japan has already picked several public facilities in
prefectures such as Niigata, Ishikawa and Fukuoka to serve as
temporary shelters for North Korean refugees, Kyodo said, but
the government needs to expand the list.
Experts say Tokyo has made contingency plans for possibly
tens of thousands of refugees arriving at its ports but has not
obtained local agreement to the plans, a potential headache.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda instructed government
officials on Monday to make preparations for all possible
contingencies. Noda is due to arrive in Beijing later on Sunday
for talks with Chinese leaders, with North Korea expected to be
high on the agenda.
China has been the North's major backer during decades of
isolation and Noda will meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen
Jiabao during a two-day trip. They are expected to agree to work
together TO maintain stability on the Korean peninsula.
The two Koreas are still technically at war after the
1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than an
(Additional reporting by Mari Saito in TOKYO; Editing by Paul
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