North Korea military pledges support for new leader
North Korea's powerful military has held a mass rally to pledge loyalty to the country's new chief Kim Jong-un, vowing to become "rifles and bombs" to protect him, official media said Tuesday.
The North also announced a rare amnesty for prisoners as the untested young leader tries to build support.
Service members promised to "become rifles and bombs to serve as Kim Jong-un first-line lifeguards and Kim Jong-un first-line death-defying corps", the official KCNA news agency said.
The regime moved quickly to proclaim Jong-un, aged in his late 20s, as its new chief after the sudden death of his father and supreme leader Kim Jong-il on December 17.
It has appointed the son, who is ranked a general but has no known active military experience, supreme commander of the 1.2 million-strong military.
On Sunday state media showed Jong-un driving a tank and giving orders to artillery, navy and air force units, in an apparent attempt to bolster his credentials with the world's fourth-largest armed forces.
KCNA said armed forces chief Ri Yong-Ho read the pledge of loyalty to Jong-un at Monday's rally in Pyongyang of the three branches of the military, which ended with a march past.
The message pledged to "wipe out the enemies to the last one if they intrude into the inviolable sky, land and seas of the country even 0.001 mm", it said.
The rally paid tribute to the "unswerving Songun will" of the new leader, a reference to an army-first policy which prioritises their welfare over civilians in a country hit by severe food shortages.
The North separately announced an amnesty for prisoners to mark the upcoming birth anniversaries of its late leaders.
KCNA said the amnesty — the first since 2005, according to South Korea's unification ministry — would apply to "convicts" but did not give numbers or elaborate on who would benefit.
Rights groups say more than 200,000 men, women and children are held in prisons and labour camps, mostly for political and not criminal reasons.
The 70th anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong-il is on February 16. The 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim's father and founding president Kim Il-Sung falls on April 15.
The news agency said the decision embodies "the "noble, benevolent and all-embracing politics" of the late Kims.
The regime has vowed not to change course under its new leader and has kept up a stream of hostile commentary on South Korea.
Main newspaper Rodong Sinmun took aim Tuesday at a decision by the South and its U.S. ally to sign a joint plan on responding to any North Korean attacks.
An editorial described the joint plan, and scheduled exercises related to it, as "a conspiracy aimed at eventually triggering a war to invade the (North) with the help of a foreign power".
"The traitor Lee Myung-Bak is at the forefront of fanning the madness for war," it said of the South's president.
Source: Seoul, 10 January 2012 - Agence France-Presse News (© Copyright (c) AFP)
Photo: This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 1, 2012 shows new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front row-C) posing for photos. North Korea’s powerful military has held a mass rally to pledge loyalty to the country’s new chief , vowing to become "rifles and bombs" to protect him, official media said Tuesday. (Photograph by: KCNA, Getty Images)