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North Korean leader Kim Jong-il turns 69

February 16, 2011 - NORTH KOREA

The 69th birthday national birthday party for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will be watched for clues to his health, the succession and to the secretive communist state's recent bellicosity. Analysts mainly link the four factors, but differ on Pyongyang's aim. The day is marked with dance spectaculars and speeches praising Kim Jong-il, who rarely attends the festivities. The eulogies and statements could answer some of the questions. Kim senior appeared frail in the most recent sighting -- presiding with his anointed heir, Kim Jong-un, at a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party in October

The 69th birthday national birthday party for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will be watched for clues to his health, the succession and to the secretive communist state's recent bellicosity. Analysts mainly link the four factors, but differ on Pyongyang's aim. The day is marked with dance spectaculars and speeches praising Kim Jong-il, who rarely attends the festivities. The eulogies and statements could answer some of the questions. Kim senior appeared frail in the most recent sighting -- presiding with his anointed heir, Kim Jong-un, at a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party in October. Analysts said the lavish public display, billed as the largest military parade staged by the communist state, with a rare invitation to the foreign press, was intended as a signal that a smooth transition of power is under way. Kim senior is widely believed to be in poor health following a stroke in Aug 2008. There have been intermittent skirmishes between North Korea and South Koreas since the 1953 armistice, most recently, the sinking in March of a South Korean warship, and an artillery attack on Nov 23 on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Some Korea experts link the latest attack to the recent news of the country's nuclear plans, according to Jane's. A report published on 20 Nov US nuclear scientist Dr Sigmund Hecker confirmed activity at Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea, where an "ultra-modern" uranium enrichment plant is in operation. The country has conducted two nuclear tests. Analysts in Seoul cited in Time Magazine say the thread plausibly linking the nuclear revelations and the artillery attack is the leadership succession. Both underscore what has been a central political component of the Kim Jong-il regime, according to the analysts, the doctrine of "military first" politics. Born 16 Feb 1941 in Siberia, Russia, Kim Jong-il is the son of Kim il-Sung. Following the same pattern as the present transfer of power, Kim Jong-il was designated his father's successor in 1980 and became North Korea's de facto leader on his father's death in 1994. (WRITTEN Nov 2010)

Yeonpyeong attack may be linked to North Korean nuclear revelations

Behind the Koreas' Artillery Fire: Kim's Succession (Time 23 Nov 2010)

Kim Jong-il birthday overshadowed by health and economic fears (Guardian 16 Feb 2010)

Date written/update: 2011-02-16