SEOUL – The son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong II issued his first military order shortly before the despot's death, in what was seen as a display of the young heir's control over the communist state's armed forces.
Kim Jong Un ordered all military units to stop field exercises and training and return to their bases just before his father's death was announced Monday by state media, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday.
Until now South Korean intelligence officials thought Kim Jong Un had not yet taken over full control of the armed forces, the report quoted a South Korean source as saying.
"This is a direct example showing Kim Jong Un's complete control over the military," the source said, adding it also demonstrated that the younger Kim is likely to become the top commander of the North's military.
Kim Jong Un became vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party and a four-star general last year, indicating Kim Jong Il's intentions to make him the next leader of North Korea.
Amid global uncertainty over what happens next in the nuclear-armed state, U.S. officials have held informal talks with the North Koreans. The talks took place in New York and concerned the subject of U.S. food aid to the impoverished country, a State Department official told The Wall Street Journal.
In Seoul, the announcement of the 69-year-old Kim's death prompted a rare outbreak of cross-party unity as the main opposition party ended a boycott of parliament and said it supported the government's call for stable relations with Pyongyang.
The South Korean government also announced that it would allow private groups to send condolence messages to North Korea, AFP reported.
To remove a potential flash point, South Korea's cabinet decided earlier this week it would not allow church groups to illuminate three Christmas-tree shaped towers near the North Korean border Friday. North Korea views the illuminations as a South Korean effort to spread religion in the atheist North.
South Korea's intelligence agency is also pressuring an activist group that regularly floats helium balloons into North Korea carrying anti-regime leaflets, to stop a planned dispatch Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
North Korea has offered no further information on its power transition. A state funeral is scheduled for Dec. 28. North Korea has said no foreign delegations will be accepted.
The head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) earlier this week cast doubt that Kim died in the circumstances announced by North Korea.
North Korea claimed Kim died on a train during a field guidance tour, but NIS chief Won Sei-hoon said a train used by Kim was spotted stationary in Pyongyang at the stated time of his death, Yonhap news agency reported.