N Korea's ruling party to hold rare meet
Seoul - North Korea announced on Monday its ruling party will hold a rare special conference in April to "glorify" late leader Kim Jong-Il and rally around his young son and successor Kim Jong-Un.
The meeting was expected formally to appoint Jong-Un as Workers' Party chief, further strengthening his grip on power.
The conference will "glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats of Kim Jong-Il for all ages and accomplish the Juche cause, the Songun revolutionary cause, rallied close around Kim Jong-Un", the official news agency said.
Juche, or self-reliance, is the nation's official ideology. The Songun, or military-first policy, prioritises troops' welfare over civilians.
The meeting will be held in mid-April, close to the 100th anniversary of the birth of late founding president Kim Il-Sung - the original member of the dynasty which has ruled since 1948.
North Korea has selected the anniversary as the start of a new era when the impoverished nation becomes a "powerful and prosperous" state.
The North last held a party conference in September 2010, its biggest political meeting for 30 years.
That meeting appointed Jong-Un as vice-chairperson of the party's central military commission in preparation for the eventual handover of power.
The transition came sooner than expected when Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on December 17 at age 69.
His son has been proclaimed the new ruler but has formally been appointed to only one of the late Kim's posts, military commander-in-chief.
The April meeting is very likely to appoint Jong-Un to his father's old post of party general secretary and also as chief of its central military commission, said Paik Hak-Soon of South Korea's Sejong Institute think-tank.
The former leader also headed the all-powerful National Defence Commission (NDC), a non-party body.
Economic, foreign policy
Paik said it was unclear whether Jong-Un would leave the NDC post vacant forever in memory of Kim Jong-Il, in the same way Jong-Il reserved the position of state president for his own late father.
"But that's not important," he said. "What's important is that Jong-Un will be firmly in power with all the necessary top titles under his belt, probably by the end of April."
The analyst said the conference would also address economic policies and perhaps policy towards the United States and South Korea.
"But detailed South Korea policies may come out after the North sees the result of the South's general election in April," Paik said.
South Korea's left-leaning opposition party, which has traditionally supported aid and engagement with the North, currently leads the conservative ruling party in opinion polls.