North Koreans urged to defend Jong-Un 'to the death'

This tv grab taken from North Korean TV on 28 December 2011 shows Kim Jong-Un saluting during his father Kim Jong-Il"s funeral at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang Kim Jong-un took over from his father, Kim Jong-il, after his death two weeks ago

North Korea has called on the country to defend the new leader, Kim Jong-un, to the death, in a New Year message.

The army, ruling party and people should be prepared to act as "human shields" for the son and successor of Kim Jong-il, the message released by state media said.

The message also said the "burning issue" of food shortages was one the nation's leaders must work to solve.

Kim Jong-il, who had ruled since 1994, died on 17 December.

His son, Kim Jong-un, took over after his death and has in recent days quickly consolidated his power in the country.

On Friday, he was appointed supreme commander of the country's 1.2 million-strong armed forces, according to state media.

Scrutinised

"Glorify this year 2012 as a year of proud victory, a year when an era of prosperity is unfolding," the message released by the official Korean Central News Agency said.

"The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-un unto death."

The message also said US troops should be removed from South Korea, describing them as the main obstacle to peace.

North Korea has consistently stipulated that the US must abandon its hostile policy for there to be any improvement in ties with Washington.

The message said members of the ruling Workers' Party should "implement to the letter the party's policy of agricultural revolution" in order to solve the issue of food shortages.

The United Nations believes nearly three million of North Korea's 24 million population will need food assistance in 2012.

The traditional first state editorial of the year in Pyongyang is scrutinised by officials and analysts in the region as it sheds light on the country's New Year's policy goals, says the BBC's Kevin Kim in South Korea.

Analysts note that this year there was no mention of the country's nuclear weapons programme, an issue which has featured heavily in previous New Year's Day editorials.

The coming year will be seen as an auspicious one by North Koreans as it marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Jong-un's grandfather and national founder, Kim Il-sung, who ruled for nearly 50 years.

Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack, aged 69, state media has said.

On Wednesday, a huge funeral procession was staged for the late leader in the snowy streets of the capital, Pyongyang.

A Japanese newspaper has reported that Kim Jong-il's eldest son, who lives in Macau, secretly visited Pyongyang to pay his last respects.

Yomiuri Shimbun, quoting an unnamed source in North Korea, said Kim Jong-nam had flown home "for a few days" but was now back in Macau.

He has lived abroad for several years after reportedly falling out of favour with his father for trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001 to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

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