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Kim Jong Un's Ascension Is 'Being Cemented For Him'

The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is now lying in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang — enclosed in a glass coffin and surrounded by flowers. He died Saturday and the period of mourning is set to continue until well into next week.

But there are already signs, NPR's Anthony Kuhn said on Morning Edition, that one of the Dear Leader's sons is indeed going to become the communist nation's next leader — just as Kim Jong Il apparently wished.

Kim Jong Un's ascension "is being cemented for him," Anthony told Morning Edition host Renee Montagne during a conversation from his listening post in Seoul. Anthony said North Korean state media are "full of titles and praise for Kim Il Un, calling him a 'great successor,' an 'outstanding leader' and a leader identical to his late father."

Those are all signs, said Anthony, that the party apparatus is moving to smooth the way for Kim Jong Un's promotion.

South Korea's Yonhap News also pointed to this statement from North Korea's Central News Agency as further evidence:

"All the party members, servicepersons and people should remain loyal to the guidance of respected Kim Jong-un."

"The new title of being respected is seen as the opening of a new era of Kim Jong-un, an inexperienced 20-something," Yonhap writes. "Kim Jong-il was referred to as 'Dear Leader' as he assumed power from his father, the country's founder Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994."

Former U.N. ambassador (and New Mexico Gov.) Bill Richardson also says the heir apparent's position is being firmed up. Richardson, one of the few American diplomats to have been to North Korea and to have negotiated with its leaders, told NBC News that "the early signs [are] that he's consolidating his leadership."

Meanwhile, The New York Times writes this morning about how the fact that U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies didn't know about Kim Jong Il's death until North Korea announced it about 48 hours later, was "an extensive intelligence failure."

And an unnamed Obama administration official tells The Washington Post that "it is scary how little we really know" about what goes on inside North Korea and what will happen next.

As NPR's Tom Gjelten reported on Morning Edition, intelligence analysts are scrambling to learn more about Kim Jong Un.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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