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Succession vacuum blamed for North Korea's missile launch

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Succession vacuum blamed for North Korea's missile launch

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A hesitant and fragile looking Kim Jong-il entered North-Korea’s Peoples’ Assembly last April. For the communist leader it was his first public appearance after suffering a suspected brain haemorrhage in August 2008.

Accompanied by the country’s ruling elite, the orchestrated attendance was designed to re-affirm Kim’s leadership. Just two days before, Pyongyang had launched a suspected nuclear-linked long range rocket in what the international community saw as a provocative act. Modern North-Korean has a long tradition of provoking international crises. Many analysts believe a desire to strengthen its position and win more concessions from the UN if it gives up its nuclear ambitions lies behind its flouting of Security Council regulations. Robert Dujarric, Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies said: “They may want to test the envelope, that is to see how far they can go, or they may miscalculate, I think the risk of a nuclear miscalculation is very low, but the risk of a conventional incident, for example with South Korea at sea, is higher.” But this time, observers of the secretive North Korean regime believe the latest missile tests are aimed at a domestic audience. At 67 years-old and weakened by ill health Kim Jong-il wants to secure stability when his death brings in a new leader. And perhaps he has finally decided just who will follow him. When Kim took power there was no doubt about the handover. His father Kim Il-sung had always declared publically that his son would be the next leader, Kim has been markedly silent on the subject. As usual, rumour has filled the vacuum and there is now speculation that Kim’s youngest son could be the favourite to succeed. Although little is known of this son and no photos exist of him as an adult, some facts are known. His name is Kim Jong-un. His age is uncertain but it is thought he was born around 1983/84 to one of his father’s mistresses. Unlike his father he has been educated abroad and speaks English and German. Very like his father, he is said to be a ruthless character.