North Korean leader Kim Jong-II appears to have speeded up the transfer of power to one of his sons because of his declining health, a South Korean minister said on Thursday.
Kim may be "accelerating a procedure to transfer power to his son due to his worsening health," Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek, who is in charge of cross-border relations, told a forum.
Hyun did not say which son would inherit power.
South Korean lawmakers, quoting the country's intelligence service, said on Tuesday that Kim had nominated his third and youngest son, 26-year-old Jong-Un.
There has been intense speculation about the future leadership of the hardline communist state since Kim Jong-Il reportedly suffered a stroke last August.
Kim, now 67, has resumed most of his duties but looks noticeably older and more gaunt.
According to reports, North Koreans are being taught new songs aimed at instilling loyalty to the next leader.
Analysts believe Kim the elder staged the May 25 nuclear test to shore up his authority among the party and military in preparation for the succession.
Since the test the North has launched six short-range missiles, renounced the truce which ended the 1950-1953 Korean War and threatened possible attacks on the South.
Pyongyang is also said to be preparing to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile as well as several medium-range missiles.
Little is known about Jong-Un but the basketball fan has been described as a "chip off the old block."
Jong-Un was born to the leader's third wife Ko Yong-Hi, who reportedly died of breast cancer in 2004, and was educated at an international school in Switzerland.