SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a mass gathering of military and party officials that was broadcast live on state television at a time of growing concern over the stability of his hardline regime.
The ceremony in central Pyongyang, marking the second death anniversary of Jong-un's father and former leader Kim Jong-il, included a number of speeches that stressed unquestioning loyalty to the young supremo and included a stark warning to rival South Korea.
It followed the shock execution last week of Jong-un's uncle and one-time political mentor, Jang Song-thaek.
The purge raised questions about factional infighting at the top of the North Korean hierarchy and prompted both Seoul and Washington to warn of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed regime.
State television showed the massed ranks of tens of thousands of military and party officials sitting stony-faced in pin-drop silence for several minutes, before rising to greet Jong-un with thunderous applause as he arrived to take his place on the leadership podium.
"We should be warriors to safeguard the party centre with our lives ... with the conviction that we know no one but the great comrade Jong-un," North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, said in an opening address.
He added that the country had made "great strides" in the two years since Jong-un took over the reins of power after his father's death.
Under Jong-un's leadership, North Korea has successfully placed a satellite in orbit and in February this year conducted its third – and most powerful – nuclear test.
"By holding the respected comrade Jong-un in high esteem ... our country will prosper as the country of eternal sun," Yong-nam said.
Yesterday's mass meeting also heard a keynote address by top military leader Choe Ryong-hae – who some analysts believe had a hand in the ouster and execution of Jang.
"Our revolutionary forces know ... no one but comrade Jong-un," said Choe, a close Jong-un confidant who holds the military rank of vice marshal and is director of the Korean People's Army's General Political Department
The military will support "our supreme commander, under any storms and hardships", said Choe, who also fired off a warning at rival South Korea.
"If the enemies drop a single drop of fire on our motherland, our soldiers will immediately storm out to wipe out all the invaders and achieve unification," he said.
At a meeting of top defence and national security officials on Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had warned that the recent leadership shake-up in the North could presage some aggressive behaviour from Pyongyang.
"We can't rule out the possibility of contingencies such as reckless provocations," Park said, urging the military to step up vigilance along the heavily fortified border.
Yesterday's meeting came the day after a massive military rally in Pyongyang. — AFP
Singapore said it will deport 53 South Asian workers and pursue criminal charges against 28 others for their involvement in the city-state's first riot in more than four decades.
"We have taken strong and decisive action to charge, and to repatriate those who took part in the riot to send a strong signal that we will not tolerate actions by anyone which threaten law and order in Singapore," Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said at a news conference.
The riot on Dec 8 by hundreds of South Asian workers has forced the tightly controlled city-state to examine how it deals with the presence of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers, who drive its economic growth.
The rampage, which erupted after an Indian man was killed by a bus in a district known as Little India, saw 39 people injured, including police officers, and 25 vehicles destroyed.
Fifty-two of the 53 men being deported are Indian nationals, while one is a Bangladeshi, said police commissioner Ng Joo Hee.
They were hauled up yesterday morning and will be deported after travel and administrative arrangements are settled, he said.
The 28 men facing rioting charges remain in police custody pending further investigations and can expect seven years in jail plus caning if found guilty.
Seven Indian nationals who had previously been charged were released after their charges were withdrawn.
The Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement that investigations showed the 28 facing charges were involved in "acts of violence, damage to property, defying police orders, or inciting others to do so". — AFP
A subway commuter is facing the prospect of five years in jail plus flogging for wielding a sword on board a train while dressed in samurai attire.
Metro operator SMRT said police were called in on Monday after a man wielding a samurai sword jumped a fare gate at a suburban station and boarded a train headed towards the city.
A police spokesman said he was detained for possession of a weapon, an offence which is punishable by up to five years in jail and a mandatory minimum of six strokes of a cane.
She did not respond to queries about his nationality or age.
Photographs posted on social media by other passengers on the train showed the man wielding the sword while dressed in a white T-shirt and Japanese hakama pants usually worn by martial arts practitioners.
He appeared to sport frizzy, shoulder-length hair.
"From the waist up he looked like a rocker, but from the waist down, he looked like a samurai," witness Kim Bomhae told The Straits Times.
The images posted on Facebook and various blogs showed police officers and passengers keeping a wide berth as the man brandished the unsheathed sword on board the train.
He was apprehended by police who tailed him after he alighted at City Hall station at the heart of Singapore's civic district.
The bizarre incident immediately drew online derision.
"Seems like a good way to ensure you get your personal space on the train," wrote Ahmad Zhaki Abdullah on The Straits Times' Facebook page.
Congestion on the 150km-long metro network has fed resentment among Singaporeans in recent years. — AFP
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