N Korea 'preparing for succession'
North Korea has confirmed that a major communist party convention will be held next week as observers speculated that the secretive regime's ageing leader was ready to give his son an important position to pave the way for his succession.
Kim Jong Il took control of North Korea in 1994 when his father died of heart failure in what was communism's first hereditary transfer of power.
Now 68, and reportedly in poor health two years after suffering a stroke, Kim is believed to be preparing his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, for a similar transition by appointing him to top party posts at the Workers' Party convention.
Delegates will meet on September 28 to elect new party leaders, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday in a dispatch from Pyongyang.
The report did not explain why the meeting, initially set for "early September", had been postponed.
North Korea has been struggling to cope with devastating flooding and a typhoon which killed dozens of people and destroyed roads, railways and homes earlier this month, according to state media.
Delegates across the country were appointed "against the background of a high-pitched drive for effecting a new great revolutionary surge now under way on all fronts for building a thriving nation with the historic conference", the KCNA report said.
The rhetoric has been building ahead of the conference, the first major Workers' Party gathering since the landmark 1980 congress where Kim Jong Il, then 38, made his political debut in an appearance seen as confirmation that he would eventually succeed his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.
Tuesday's announcement could mean that the internal debate is over and the regime has "reached a final conclusion" on the succession process, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies.
"I believe North Korea has decided to give the successor an official title but not to make it public to the outside world."