Analysts said Kim plans to position his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to be his successor at the party meeting. Jong Il suffered a stroke two years ago.

North Korea?s ruling party is to meet next week to choose a new leadership circle, the state news agency KCNA reported. The meeting is expected to make clear the succession to ailing President Kim Jong Il. The Workers? Party of Korea (WPK) conference is set for Sept. 28, China?s Xinhua news agency quoted KCNA as reporting.

The party earlier this month had reportedly postponed its largest meeting in 30 years due to Kim?s poor health.

Analysts said they believe Kim plans to position his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to be his successor at the party meeting. Speculation about who would follow Kim Jong Il has swirled over the past two years since South Korea?s intelligence agency said the elder Kim had suffered a stroke.

KCNA said a series of preparatory meetings of party delegates had been held across the nation ?against the backdrop of a high-pitched drive for effecting a new great revolutionary surge now underway on all fronts for building a thriving nation with the historic conference of the WPK.?

South Korea?s Yonhap news agency said the convention would mark the North?s largest political gathering since a larger assembly in 1980 formalized leader Kim as successor to his father Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Il took power in 1994. The 68-year-old is now considered to be trying to position his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be in his late 20s, to succeed him, the agency said.

Little is known about the presumptive heir, who is said to have spent some of his teenage years in Switzerland.

In a 1980 congress, the Workers? Party made public Kim Jong Il?s succession by naming him to a top party post. Many analysts believe the totalitarian regime would make a similar move in the convention for Kim Jong Un.

The postponement has caused rampant speculation among North Korea watchers. Some said the elder Kim might be too frail to preside over the meeting. Others suggested that there may have been disagreements over how to position the son within the party power structure.

A North Korean defector said the postponement appeared to be related to leader Kim?s health. ?In North Korea, it is considered the number one state affair to take care of Chairman Kim Jong Il?s health,? the defector told the news agency, on condition of anonymity.

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