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Worries over new North Korean leadership

The Associated Press

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Tens of thousands of mourners packed the snowy main square yesterday to pay respects to late leader Kim Jong Il as North Korea tightened security in cities and won loyalty pledges from top generals for Kim's son and anointed heir.

Women held handkerchiefs to their faces as they wept and filed past a huge portrait of a smiling Kim Jong Il hanging on the Grand People's Study House, in the spot where a photograph of Kim's father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, usually hangs.

Kim Jong Il died of a massive heart attack Saturday, according to state media, which reported his death on Monday.

South Korean intelligence reports, meanwhile, indicated that North Korea was consolidating power behind Kim's untested son, believed to be in his late 20s.

Worries around Northeast Asia have risen sharply as Kim Jong Un rises to power in a country with a 1.2-million-troop military, ballistic missiles and an advanced nuclear weapons development program.

South Korea has put its military on high alert. In another sign of border tension, Chinese boatmen along a river separating North Korea and China told the AP that North Korean police have ordered them to stop giving rides to tourists, saying they will fire on the boats if they see anyone with cameras.

Along the border, the world's most heavily armed, South Korean activists and defectors launched giant balloons containing tens of thousands of propaganda leaflets, a move likely to infuriate the North. Some of the leaflets opposed a hereditary transfer of power in North Korea. Some showed graphic pictures of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's battered corpse and described his gruesome death.

Kim Jong Il ruled the country for 17 years after inheriting power from his father, national founder and eternal President Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Kim Jong Un entered public view only last year and remains a mystery to most of the world.

Seoul's National Intelligence Service believes the North is now focused on consolidating Kim Jong Un's power and has placed its troops on alert, according to South Korean parliament member Kwon Young-se.

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