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Kim Jong Un: North Korea's next leader?

'Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il has reportedly tapped his youngest son as his successor.

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South Korean intelligence sources are spreading the word that North Korea's ailing leader, Kim Jong Il, has settled on his third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, as his successor.

Kim Jong Il seems to be moving quickly to pick a successor as questions swirl about how much time he has left to rule the country, while recovering from a stroke that he reportedly suffered last August and struggling with other illness.

North Korea is giving no hints about succession, but the rapid-fire moves to show off the North's military strength, notably the underground test of a nuclear device on May 25, are believed to be timed to demonstrate Kim Jong Il's power despite his physical weakness.

North Korea this week is reported to be moving a long-range missile to a site on the west coast for a test similar to the one conducted from the east coast on April 25.

"The background to the nuclear and missile thing is, you have a dying monarch who doesn't have an established successor," says Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. He adds, "you'd think he would want all his succession ducks lined up in a row."

Questions over succession reports

Analysts look askance, however, at the definitive nature of the South Korean reports on Kim Jong Il's selection of his youngest son. Although he may be a better choice than his two older brothers, his inexperience raises questions about who would really be in charge.


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