North Korea backs son after Kim Jong-Il's death

SEOUL - North Korea has hailed Kim Jong-Il's young son as a "great successor" at the helm of the isolated country after the death of the leader who built an atomic arsenal and presided over a devastating famine.

On state television Monday, a tearful announcer delivered the news of Kim's demise at 69 from a heart attack, and the station aired footage of hysterical North Koreans, young and old alike, pounding the ground in displays of abject grief.

Pyongyang urged service personnel and citizens to rally behind Kim's youngest son Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s. Last year, he was made a four-star general and given top ruling party posts despite having had no public profile.

It is the nuclear-armed pariah nation's second dynastic succession, and analysts said there would probably be little turbulence - at least for now - in the North, whose unpredictable behaviour has long destabilised the region.

"All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-Un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public," said the black-clad television announcer.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted officials and citizens pledging their allegiance to the Swiss-educated new leader.

It described him as "a prominent thinker-theoretician and peerlessly illustrious commander" thanks to whom "the DPRK is more strikingly displaying its dignity and might as an invincible military power."

A KCNA report in the early hours of Tuesday described grief-stricken North Koreans holding late-night vigils at various statues and monuments to Kim.

South Korea put its military on emergency alert after the death was announced but urged its people to stay calm, and swiftly closed ranks with its close ally the United States.

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