North Korea's military and party officials yesterday pledged their loyalty and support to their leader Kim Jong-un as the nation commemorated the second anniversary of the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
Amid concerns over the reclusive state's stability after the execution of Kim's once powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek last week, yesterday's carefully staged events suggested that the young leader had a firm grip on power and there would be policy continuation, analysts said.
Kim was flanked by his closest adviser, Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, and head of parliament Kim Yong-nam at the event, attended by thousands of military and party officials, at the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium. Worker's Party secretary Kim Ki-nam hosted the event.
"Once more, our people's army is firmly determined to guarantee the victory of our great general's revolutionary cause," said Choe, who is believed to play a crucial role both in the military and on the economy.
Choe said the military would follow "the ever-victorious leadership of our supreme commander".
Kim Yong-nam, the ceremonial head of state, said the country had made "great strides" in the two years since Kim Jong-un took power.
The young leader was later accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol-ju, and scores of officials to pay homage to his father's body at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. Rumours have linked Ri to the recent political purges, with South Korean media reports suggesting she might have had an affair with the young leader's uncle and political mentor Jang.
Jang's widow, Kim Kyong-hui, was not seen at the event.
Analysts said the commemorations revealed a new power line-up and indicated a continuation of the country's policies.
A number of the figures present have been promoted under the young Kim. As well as Choe, military chief Ri Yong-gil and defence chief Jang Jong-nam accompanied Kim to pay homage to his father's body. Both were relatively little known in the outside world and were promoted earlier this year.
However, the prominence of Kim Yong-nam and Kim Ki-nam, representatives of the conservatives in the political hierarchy, indicated that Kim Jong-un still associated himself with the "old guard", said Adam Cathcart, an expert on North Korea at the University of Leeds.
"Jang's ouster has not been matched by dramatic changes in the people around Kim Jong-un … it does not indicate changes in policy judging by the people around him," Cathcart said.
Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert from the International Crisis Group, said yesterday's events suggested Kim had a firmer grip on power.
"They are Kim's guys, loyal to him, beholden to him," he said.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse