North Korean television Sunday showed power-behind-the-throne Jang Song-thaek in the uniform of a general in a sign of his growing sway after the death of Kim Jong-il, and Japan's prime minister said the region faced a new phase with Kim's demise.
Footage that North Korean television said was shot on Saturday showed Jang on the frontrow of top military officers who accompanied Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his anointed successor, paying their respects before Kim's body.
The choreography around Kim's death is one of the secretive North's few, opaque clues to the emerging configuration of power in this poor and isolated state that has rattled neighbors with nuclear tests and military brinkmanship.
A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it was the first time Jang has been shown on state television in a military uniform. His appearance suggested that Jang has secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which has pledged its allegiance to Kim Jong-un.
So what do we know about Jang? He's married to Kim Jong-il's younger sister, making him Kim the younger's uncle. He's been rumored to be the guy running the show since Kim's stroke in 2008, and this latest appearance seems to be removing the "rumored" part and emerging as regent behind the throne, as he's managed to work his way up in the ranks of the inner circle of power. A lot of analysts are hanging their hat on Jang being the man right now, which makes me wonder if it's really true.
Everyone is officially keen on Kim the younger being in charge however. I don't buy it for a second, but we'll soon see how much power Jang actually wields.