Reacting to the news that Kim Jong-un, North Korea's heir apparent, has assumed high positions in the military and the ruling Workers' Party, NightWatch's John McCreary comments:
Today's appointments complete the bridge that links military and party authority. The young Kim has both, but in both domains he is shadowed and shepherded by his aunt, his father's protégés and by his uncle Chang Song-taek and his protégés. This young man has no independent authority. He is in training. A regent troika lurks behind the scenes that is composed of the Chang family leaders and the newest Vice Marshal in the army.
Kim Chong-il, meanwhile, has given up none of his positions of authority , such as Chairman of the National Defense Commission, head of the party and head of all the party organizations of importance. Kim Chong-il does not trust his youngest son to govern anything, which explains the regency troika.
The various appointments and elevation of an untested youth in this fashion has no precedent in recent North Korean history. the process looks poorly and hastily thought out in terms of competence and ability, but crafted to try to keep the Kim family in charge.
It suggests that Kim Chong-il is sick and could die with little warning. Appointing neophytes and civilians to four-star military ranks looks ill-conceived and prone to incite resistance from professional military ranks. The leadership is becoming much less stable and durable.
Nevertheless, the announcements leave no room for doubt that the heir-apparent is the third son, Kim Chong-un. That does not mean he will ever govern.