At a time when dynastic rule is under attack in popular uprisings throughout the Middle East, the heir apparent to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il smoothly acceded to a senior spot on the National Defense Commission.
Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong-un had cemented his spot as the second most powerful person in the country when he was named recently to the post of vice chairman of the defense commission, which is led by his father.
The move was announced at a mass gathering of military leaders and security officials on February 10, the newspaper's source said, but emerged only on Wednesday, as the 69th birthday festivities for the elder Kim were in full swing in the nation's capital, Pyongyang.
''Kim Jong-un assuming such a position is quite natural and not surprising,'' said Paik Hak-soon, director of the centre for North Korean studies at the Sejong Institute near Seoul. ''It's not too early for something like this. Sooner or later it was to be expected.''
Although his emergence as a serious political figure has been undeniable, some political experts had remained unconvinced that Kim Jong-un was secure in his anointed position. But if the report of his promotion to the No. 2 post on the National Defense Commission is true, there can be no further doubts.
The 15-member defense commission has several vice chairmen, including Jang Song-taek, the leader's brother-in-law. It is widely believed that Mr Jang, the husband of Kim Jong-il's sister, has day-to-day control of the country. But in terms of power and position, ''Kim Jong-un is already ahead of Jang Song-taek,'' Mr Paik said