Posters lining Pyongyang’s streets are promoting the Workers’ Party convention, North Korea’s biggest political meeting in 30 years, as a historic event amid speculation on Monday that leader Kim Jong Il will grant his son a key party position and pave the way for his succession.

Troops, artillery and tanks were massing near the capital of Pyongyang in apparent preparation for a military parade, South Korean officials said. But there was no word in the state media on whether the convention, slated for “early September,” had begun or when it was scheduled to begin.

The capital was festooned with posters hailing an event that one North Korean professor told broadcaster APTN may be a “turning point” for the communist nation.

Party delegates from all corners of the country were gathering in Pyongyang, North Korea’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried on Monday by state media.

Thousands of residents waved colourful red and pink plastic flowers in a weekend rehearsal at Pyongyang’s main Kim Il Sung Square, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said.

“Let’s make this a festive event that will shine in the history of our country and people,” one giant poster read in footage aired by APTN.

Kim Chang Gyong, an assistant professor at the North Korean Academy of Social Science, hinted to APTN that party officials would be addressing an urgent matter, but did not elaborate.

“I think (the meeting) will serve as an important occasion amid our efforts to build a powerful socialist nation ... at a time when there is a historic demand for a new turning point,” he said in Pyongyang.

The Workers’ Party meeting is its first major gathering since the landmark 1980 congress where Kim Jong Il was confirmed as North Korea’s next leader. He eventually took over in 1994 when his father, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, died of heart failure in what was communism’s first hereditary transfer of power.

North Korea watchers predicted Mr. Kim would give his youngest son a key Workers’ Party job to help bolster his position as his successor.

Very little is known about Kim Jong Un, who is in his 20s. His name has never been mentioned in state media, and there are no known photos of him as an adult.

The convention comes on the heels of an unusual trip Mr. Kim Jong Il made recently to China, where he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and visited sites cherished by his father.

“The people’s hearts awaiting the revolutionary, festive occasion heat up due to their joy and happiness,” the Rodong Sinmun commentary, which was posted on the government—run Uriminzokkiri website, said.

The convention will mark “a meaningful chapter in the history of our party” it said.

North Korea also celebrates the 62nd anniversary this week of the day Kim Il Sung founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, better known abroad as North Korea.

The conference comes amid tensions with Washington and the international community over the North’s nuclear programme and with Seoul over the deadly March sinking of a South Korean warship.

However, the regime announced on Monday that a seven—member crew of a South Korean fishing boat seized last month in its waters would be released as a humanitarian gesture.

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