Tokyo -- A defiant affirmation of North Korea's dynastic dictatorship is to unfold after days of parades through Pyongyang to celebrate its confrontation with the US and cement the power of hardliners set on keeping their nuclear weapons.
Reports in Moscow and Tokyo suggest that the nation's leader Kim Jong-il, is preparing to anoint his second son, Kim Jong-chol, 24, as heir to the clan that has ruled North Korea since 1948.
Jong-chol is the son of Kim's favourite mistress, who died of breast cancer last year aged 51. A leaked military document last year glorified her as the "respected mother" in terms that left little doubt that Kim intended Jong-chol to inherit his personality cult.
Jong-chol was educated under an alias at an international school near Geneva.
The only recent gossip about him is that he is a passionate basketball fan, prompting his father to order basketball courts be built at state villas.
Since his return to Pyongyang, Jong-chol has held a nominal post in the Korean Workers Party, whose 60th anniversary provides the reason for today's expected display of mass loyalty.
Diplomats in the Stalinist state's capital say that Kim may convene a seventh party congress soon to set the stage for his son's ascent.
Exiles claim there have been gunfights between Kim's extended family over the succession. South Korean intelligence is certain that Kim long ago decided to disinherit his eldest son, Kim Jong-nam.
Much more than sibling rivalry is at stake inside Pyongyang's palaces. Kim has deftly thrown US policy into disarray by signing up to an agreement to dismantle his nuclear programs then, one day later, putting impossible conditions on the deal. Talks will resume in China next month.
The regime has ordered aid workers to leave the country, saying it has enough food to feed its malnourished people. The head of the UN World Food Program in Pyongyang, Richard Ragan, is negotiating to allow its work to continue.
Travellers from the North's countryside tell of soldiers guarding grain and searching vehicles around collective farms to stop peasants selling the harvest. This month the state resumed control of grain sales, reversing reforms that had allowed private food markets to develop.
The reversion to Stalinist economics, the glorification of the dynasty and the decision to purge foreign influence help explain the negotiating tactics by which Kim has confounded the Bush administration.