Image: Kim Jong Un
AP
In this image from KRT video, North Korea's next leader Kim Jong Un stands during a memorial service for late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Thursday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 12/31/2011 4:02:16 AM ET 2011-12-31T09:02:16

North Korea announced on Saturday it has appointed Kim Jong Un, the anointed successor and youngest son of Kim Jong Il, as Supreme Commander of its 1.2 million-strong military, two days after official mourning for the late leader ended.

The North's state news agency KCNA said the appointment was made at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party on Friday.

KCNA said the Political Bureau members "courteously proclaimed the dear comrade Kim Jong Un, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, assumed the Supreme Commandership of the Korean People's Army," according to a will made by Kim Jong Il on October 8.

It did not elaborate on the will.

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Since Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, the North's state media have dubbed Kim Jong Un "supreme commander." Some Korea-watchers say it may take Kim Jong Un some months to assume the full panoply of official titles held by his father.

Video: Kim Jong Un takes power in North Korea (on this page)

But the announcement of the politburo's decision is a clear sign that Kim Jong Un is fast consolidating power over North Korea. It's also the latest step in a burgeoning personality cult around him.

Kim Jong Un should be "the only center of unity, cohesion and leadership" of the Workers' Party, North Korea's state media said, and the military should uphold the "songun," or military-first, politics laid down by Kim Jong Il.

The party said the country should unite around Kim Jong Un and strengthen "the monolithic leadership system of the dear respected Comrade Kim Jong Un throughout the party and society."

Footage aired recently by the North's state TV has shown Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his 20s, flanked or followed by the North's top military officers and a coterie of leaders during a series of mourning ceremonies for his father.

This signaled a smooth transfer of power to Kim Jong Un, the third generation of his family to rule the unpredictable and reclusive communist state since shortly after World War Two.

Inexperience
"Faced with the sudden death of his father, Kim Jong Un and his supporters, who appear to be less prepared and insecure, may think they do not have much time in solidifying the young Kim's position," Professor Koh Yu-hwan, an expert on the North's leadership from Seoul's Dongguk University, told Reuters.

"The approval (of his supreme leadership of the military) should be one of the fastest ways to allow him the sovereign ruler position," Koh said. This ties in with the North's "military-first" policies on which Kim Jong Il relied heavily.

Choe Yong Nam, 48-year-old army officer, told The Associated Press in Pyongyang that he was confident with Kim Jong Un as Supreme Commander of the military. "As we were led by illustrious commanders of Mount Paektu, we have won only victories. I am sure that we will always emerge victorious as we have another great leader Kim Jong Un."

Paektu is the highest peak on the Korean peninsula that the North cites in propaganda to signify the Kim dynasty. It is also Kim Jong Il's official birthplace.

Slideshow: Funeral and reaction to the death of Kim Jong Il (on this page)

Kim Jong Un was named a four-star general and given the vice-chairmanship of the ruling party's Central Military Commission by his father in 2010.

Many Korea-watchers also expect the inexperienced new leader, who had only been groomed for rule since 2009, to lead with the aid of a close coterie around him that includes his uncle and key power-broker, Jang Song Thaek, at least in the early stages of the power transition.

Jang, husband of Kim Jong Il's younger sister, Kim Kyong Hui, stood behind his nephew in Wednesday's mass funeral parade, escorting the hearse carrying Kim's body.

Despite Pyongyang's determination to project an unbroken line from Kim Jong Un's iron-fisted predecessors, which began with his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, there have been questions among outsiders about his capacity to lead the country.

Story: North Korea vows no change despite new leadership

North Korea, whose military is pursuing a nuclear arms program, is technically still at war with the South and is suffering from chronic food shortages.

Labeling its opponents "foolish," North Korea warned the South on Friday it would stick to its hardline policies and said Pyongyang would never engage with the current government of South Korea.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Kim Jong Un takes power in North Korea

Interactive: North Korea's power shift

Photos: World reacts

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  1. Pyongyang

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Media access to Kim Jong Il's funeral is restricted. North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has provided many of the images.

    Korean People's Army officers bowing their heads at the memorial service for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, Dec. 29, ending 13 days of official mourning and formally declaring his young son, Kim Jong Un as the new supreme leader. (KCNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Pyongyang

    North Korean workers pray silently during the memorial for Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, Dec. 29. (KCNA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Pyongyang

    Railroad workers observe a moment of silence during a memorial service for Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, Dec. 29. (Kyodo News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Pyongyang

    A sea of people stand in a Pyongyang plaza on Thursday, Dec. 29 to attend the memorial service for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. (KCNA via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pyongyang

    North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un looks on during the memorial for his father in Pyongyang on Dec. 29. (KRT via Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Pyongyang

    North Koreans pray silently during a memorial for Kim Jong Il on Dec. 29. Three minutes of silence were observed nationwide, after which sirens and ship and train horns were heard. (KCNA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Tokyo, Japan

    Mourners gather in front of a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a memorial service organized by the General Association of Korean residents in Japan, in Tokyo on Dec. 29. (Kyodo News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pyongyang

    The funeral procession for North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-Il arrives at the square of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. Tens of thousands of weeping North Koreans bade farewell Dec. 28 to longtime leader Kim Jong-Il. (KCNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pyongyang

    North Koreans react during their late leader Kim Jong Il's funeral procession in Pyongyang in this image taken from video Dec. 28. North Korea's military staged a huge funeral procession on Wednesday in the snowy streets of the capital Pyongyang for its deceased "dear leader," Kim Jong Il. (KRT via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Pyongyang

    Military personnel bow as a car passes with a portrait of Kim Jong Il during his funeral at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. North Korean state television began broadcasting the funeral of late leader Dec.28, with footage of tens of thousands of troops bowing their heads in the snow outside a memorial palace. (KCNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pyongyang

    Mourners react as a car carrying Kim Jong Il's coffin passes during his funeral procession in Pyongyang Dec. 28. (Kyodo News via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pyongyang

    Kim Jong Un salutes besides the convoy carrying the body of his father Kim Jong Il at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang Dec. 28. (KCNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Pyongyang

    North Koreans grieve during the funeral procession for Kim Jong Il as his casket arrives at the square of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. (KCNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pyongyang

    Mourners gather around a hearse carrying the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's coffin as it passes through the streets of the North Korean capital Pyongyang during his state funeral Dec.28. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans lined the route of Kim Jong Il's funeral cortege in snowfall as the leader's body was driven through the streets of Pyongyang. (KCNVA via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Pyongyang

    A uniformed man tries to control crowds attending the funeral procession for Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, Dec. 28. (KRT via Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Pyongyang

    Kim Jong Un, front right, and Jang Song-Thaek, front left, walk besides the convoy carrying the body Kim Jong Il at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang. (KCNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Pyongyang

    Members of North Korea's military react during the funeral procession for their former leader in Pyongyang. (Kyodo News via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Seoul, South Korea

    A South Korean war veteran burns a North Korean flag and pictures of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un during a rally against North Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 28, the same day of the funeral for the late North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il. (Ahn Young-joon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Seoul, South Korea

    South Korean activists try to enter the office of pro-unification civic group after one of its members entered North Korea to send her condolences for late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at a rally on Dec. 28, in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pyongyang

    North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un, cries as his father, Kim Jong Il, lies in state during the run-up to his funeral in Pyongyang on Dec. 27. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Pyongyang

    Women mourn the late Kim Jong Il at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his body lies in state, in Pyongyang Dec. 27. (KCNA via KNS - AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Pyongyang

    Lee Hee-ho, widow of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, shakes hands with new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after she paid her respects to the late Kim Jong Il Dec. 26. Lee Hee-ho, whose husband drew up a now-abandoned policy of engagement with the North, led a delegation across the border and laid wreaths at the mausoleum where Kim Jong Il's body is on display. (KCNA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Pyongyang

    Workers of the Kim Jong Tae electric locomotive plant gathering for what was described as a declaration of their resolve and to offer condolences to Kim Jong Il Dec. 26. (KCNA via KNS - AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Pyongyang

    Civilians use their jackets to shelter flowers offered to pay tribute to their late leader Kim Jong Il at a square in front of Pyongyang Gymnasium Dec. 23. (KCNA via KNS - AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pyongyang

    A uniformed woman reacts as she pays her respects to Kim Jong Ill in Pyongyang Dec. 21. (KCNA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Pyongyang

    North Koreans gather for a condolence call for deceased leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang Dec. 21. (Kyodo News via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Pyongyang

    North Korean traffic officers pay their respects at a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, Dec. 21. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Paju, South Korea

    North Korean defectors who live in South Korea prepare to fly balloons carrying anti-North Korea leaflets at the Imjinkak pavilion, near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas in Paju, Dec. 21. The defector groups released 200,000 anti-North Korea leaflets and celebrated the death of Kim Jong Il with protests against condolences to the dictator's death. The slogans on the balloons read "Liberate North Korean compatriot," "Terminated three generation hereditary power transfer," "Go to hell, Kim Jong-il," "No condolence call to devil" and "North Koreans, uprising". (Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Pyongyang

    Foreigners living and working in Pyongyang, including the United Nations' resident coordinator in North Korea, Jerome Sauvage, right front, pay their respects at a portrait of late North Korean leader at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, Dec. 21. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Pyongyang

    North Koreans make a call of condolence at the Kim Il Sung Plaza in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency, Dec. 21. (KCNA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Pyongyang

    North Koreans visit mourning places throughout the country to express condolences over the death of leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, Dec. 20. (Kcna / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Pyongyang

    North Koreans pass a row of flags flying at half mast on the morning after the day that the death of their leader Kim Jong Il was announced, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday Dec. 20, 2011. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Pyongyang

    New North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un pays respects to his father and former leader Kim Jong Il, who is lying in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Dec. 20. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Pyongyang

    North Koreans visit mourning places throughout the country to express deep condolences over the death of leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Dec. 20. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Pyongyang, North Korea

    Hundreds of North Koreans gather to mourn the death of their leader, Kim Jong Il, in front of a giant statue of his father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday, Dec. 19. North Korea's news agency reported that he had died at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after having a heart attack on a train, adding that he had been treated for cardiac and cerebrovascular diseases for a long time. He was 69 years old. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Pyongyang, North Korea

    North Korean women cry after learning death of their leader Kim Jong Il on Dec. 19 in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Kyodo News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Pyongyang, North Korea

    Undated footage released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Dec. 19 shows North Koreans citizens mourning after the death of their leader in Pyongyang. (Korean Central News Agency via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Pyongyang, North Korea

    North Koreans cry after learning death of their leader Kim Jong Il, Dec. 19, in Pyongyang. (Kyodo News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Paju, South Korea

    South Korean soldiers patrol near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul Dec. 19. The death of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il sparked immediate concern over who is in control of the reclusive state and its nuclear program. (Lim Byong-sik / Yonhap via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Seoul, South Korea

    South Koreans read extras reporting the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the train station in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 19. (Ahn Young-joon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Beijing, China

    A waitress cries after hearing news of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, at a North Korean restaurant in Beijing, Dec. 19. China said that it was "distressed" to learn of the death of Kim Jong Il, but remained confident that the North would remain united and that the two neighbors would keep up their cooperation. (China Daily via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Beijing, China

    Staff hoist a national flag at half-mast on the rooftop of North Korean Embassy in Beijing on Dec. 19, following the announced death of Kim Jong Il. (Kyodo News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    KCNA via AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (42) Funeral and reaction to the death of Kim Jong Il - World reacts
  2. ARCHIVES : KIM IL SUNG AND KIM JONG IL
    Noboru Hashimoto / Corbis Sygma
    Slideshow (36) Funeral and reaction to the death of Kim Jong Il - Kim Jong Il through the years
  3. ARCHIVES : KIM IL SUNG AND KIM JONG IL
    Noboru Hashimoto / Corbis Sygma
    Slideshow (36) The life of Kim Jong ll - Kim Jong Il through the years
  4. Image:
    KCNA via AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (42) The life of Kim Jong ll - World reacts
  5. Image:
    David Guttenfelder / AP
    Slideshow (53) Journey into North Korea

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