The government in partnership with the United States and South Korea will closely monitor the situation surrounding new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s consolidation of power after he was named Wednesday “first secretary” of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, officials said.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said Kim’s appointment as first secretary represents the 29-year-old’s “intention to strengthen his power base.” The official predicted that it will gradually become clear how the successor of Kim Jong Il, who died in December, will manage North Korea’s relations with Japan.
The Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s legislative body, will convene a session Friday, in which some analysts speculate Kim may be elected chairman of the defense commission in a move to complete the leadership transition from his father.
However, a source close to the office of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda questioned the state of Kim’s grip on power, as North Korea announced a plan to launch a rocket about half a month after Pyongyang struck a deal with Washington in late February on U.S. food aid in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.
The source said the planned launch, which is widely suspected of being a covert test of a long-range ballistic missile, “runs counter to a move to promote dialogue” with other countries and suggests lack of coordination between the North’s military and the leadership in the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Meanwhile, the highest-ranking officer in the Self-Defense Forces, Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, agreed Wednesday with visiting Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, to boost cooperation in responding to the threatened rocket launch.
To brace for the event, the prime minister’s office set up a special task force while other government entities followed suit.
At the Defense Ministry, Iwasaki met with Locklear and Lt. Gen. Burton Field, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, and they “reaffirmed continued close cooperation regarding information-sharing between U.S. forces and the Self-Defense Forces,” according to a statement issued afterward.