Asia

North Korea names Kim Jong-un army commander

North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un
Image caption Kim Jong-un was named army chief on Friday, the state news agency said

North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, has been formally named supreme commander of the country's armed forces, state media said.

Kim Jong-un, who took over after the death of his father Kim Jong-il earlier this month, was appointed at a meeting on Friday, KCNA news agency said.

The move is seen as a clear sign that the young leader is fast consolidating power over North Korea.

Kim Jong-il, who had ruled since 1994, died of a heart attack on 17 December.

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

Father's will

According to KCNA, Kim Jong-un "assumed supreme commandership of the Korean People's Army" at a Workers' Party meeting on Friday.

The appointment, which puts the young Kim in charge of the world's fifth largest army, was made in accordance with a will written by Kim Jong-il on 8 October, the news agency said.

In a statement, the news agency referred to him for the first time as "Great Leader" - regarded as a clear message of continuity of the regime of his late father.

Kim Jong-il - known in North Korea as the "Dear Leader" - was in the process of formalising Kim Jong-un as his successor when he died.

However, the transition was not complete, leaving regional neighbours fearful of a power struggle in the nuclear-armed pariah state.

On Friday, North Korea told the international community not to "expect any change" in the wake of Kim Jong-il's death.

The message came in a statement carried by state media and attributed to the powerful National Defence Commission.

"We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us," it said.

Kim Jong-un inherits 1.2 million-strong military and a national policy known as the Songun, that prioritises the welfare of the armed forces over civilians.

During the memorial service on Thursday, head of state Kim Yong-nam said that, under the new leader, the North would "march firmly along the path of Songun taught by great leader Kim Jong-il".

Songun is the phrase used for North Korea's "military first" policy.