PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea said Sunday in its annual New Year's message that it will stage an all-out drive toward prosperity, with its army, ruling party and people ready to defend Kim Jong Il's young son and successor "unto death."
The North's message, released by the official Korean Central News Agency, comes as the country enters a new era, with Kim Jong Un firmly installed as Supreme Commander of the military and ruling party leader following his father's Dec. 17 death.
This year also marks a crucial one in the North's history as it works on its goal to build a "great and prosperous nation" befitting the April 2012 centenary of the birth of national founder Kim Il Sung, the new leader's grandfather.
"Glorify this year 2012 as a year of proud victory, a year when an era of prosperity is unfolding," the North said. "The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong Un unto death."
North Korea's traditional New Year's Day message is always closely watched for clues to the government's plans. It takes on added significance this year coming just two weeks after the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il.
North Korea in recent days has cemented Kim Jong Un's position as leader, and on Saturday officially named him Supreme Commander over the 1.2 million-strong military.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea is welcoming the New Year with a message saying the army, ruling party and people will become "human shields" to defend Kim Jong Il's son and successor "unto death."
The North also said Sunday in its annual New Year's message that the country must "launch an all-out drive" to achieve prosperity. This year marks the centennial of the birth of new leader Kim Jong Un's grandfather, the revered national founder Kim Il Sung.
The New Year's message comes weeks after Kim Jong Il's Dec. 17 death.
North Korea in recent days has cemented Kim Jong Un's position as leader of the country.
On Saturday North Korea officially named him Supreme Commander over the 1.2 million-strong military.