Seoul (AFP) – Massed ranks of military and party leaders pledged complete loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un Tuesday on the second anniversary of his father’s death, at a time of growing concern over the regime’s stability.
The vows of obedience, at an elaborate gathering in Pyongyang honoring Kim’s father and former supremo Kim Jong-Il, followed the shock execution last week of the young leader’s uncle and one-time political mentor Jang Song-Thaek.
Jang’s purge raised questions about factional infighting at the top of the Pyongyang hierarchy and prompted both Seoul and Washington to warn of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed North.
State television showed tens of thousands of military and party officials sitting stony-faced in pin-drop silence for several minutes, before rising to greet Kim with thunderous applause as he took his place on the leadership podium.
“We should be warriors to safeguard the party center with our lives… with the conviction that we know no one but the great comrade Kim Jong-Un,” ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam, said in an opening address.
He added that the country had made “great strides” in the two years since Kim took over after his father’s death.
Under Kim’s leadership, North Korea has successfully placed a satellite in orbit and in February this year conducted its third — and most powerful — nuclear test.
The mass meeting also heard a keynote address by top military leader Choe Ryong-Hae, who some analysts believe had a hand in the ousting and execution of Jang — long seen as the nation’s unofficial number two.
The military will support “our supreme commander, under any storms and hardships”, said Choe, a close Kim confidant who holds the military rank of vice marshal and is director of the Korean People’s Army’s General Political Department.
“We will share the fate with our respected supreme commander by living and dying with him until the very last moment,” he said, while firing off a warning at rival South Korea.
“If the enemies drop a single drop of fire on our motherland, our soldiers will immediately storm out to wipe out all the invaders and achieve unification,” he said.
At a meeting of top defense and national security officials on Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye had warned that the recent leadership shake-up in the North could presage some aggressive behavior.