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Kim tells N Korean army to ready for combat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Kim tells N Korean army to ready for combat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 on Tuesday to mark the day his father became supreme commander [EPA]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has warned war could break out “without any prior notice” and urged his military to bolster its combat readiness, state media reported.The call on Wednesday comes one day after a US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University report said that satellite imagery suggested that the North might have begun producing fuel rods for its recently restarted nuclear reactor.

There has been heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula following the execution of Kim’s uncle and former mentor in an unusually public purge.

Seoul and Washington have warned of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed North following the execution of Jang Song-Thaek, a senior leader who was also the uncle and former political mentor of the younger leader.

Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 on Christmas Eve, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

“He instructed the unit to put utmost spurs on rounding off its combat readiness… always bearing in mind that a war breaks out without any prior notice,” it said.

The unit is based in the North’s western port city of Nampo, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

‘Ominous’ situation

The Johns Hopkins University report said that satellite imagery had identified facilities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre that might produce fuel for North Korea’s recently restarted  plutonium production reactor and the Experimental Light Water Reactor still under construction.

“The identification of these facilities indicates a more wide-ranging, extensive effort by North Korea to modernise and restart the Yongbyon complex dating back to 2009 than previously understood,” the report said.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called for “watertight security readiness” during her trip on Tuesday to a frontline guard post, as she described the situation over the border as “ominous”.

“We should react sternly and mercilessly to any provocations by North Korea,” she said.

The reclusive state’s propaganda mill has gone into overdrive in recent days, describing Jang as a traitor while extolling Kim’s leadership.

Tens of thousands of troops pledged loyalty to him in a mass rally on the death anniversary of his father last Tuesday.

The Kim dynasty has ruled the impoverished but nuclear-armed state since 1948 with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult.

 

North Korea’s Purge Message to China: Pay Up – Bloomberg

North Korea’s Purge Message to China: Pay Up – Bloomberg.

In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, waves to…Read More

Chinese President Xi Jinping must have felt pretty pleased with himself earlier this year, after he dispatched rival and former Politburo member Bo Xilai in a dramatic, humiliating show trial. When it comes to staging purges, though, North Korea’s brash young leader Kim Jong Un has him beat.

Kim didn’t just arrest his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, the second-most powerful man in the country. The boy-dictator appears to have had Jang brought out of seclusion in order to arrest him again at a televised leadership meeting, then tried and executed on the grounds of being “an anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional element and despicable political careerist and trickster,” according to the judgment of a secret military tribunal. No doubt.

Jang’s fall may have sent an equally loud message to Xi in Beijing. Until recently, Jang had been the North Korean official most closely linked to China — a mature diplomatic go-between, and the man responsible for forging deals with Chinese mining and other companies looking to exploit North Korea’s natural resources and cheap labor. By eliminating his uncle, young Kim seemed to be warning Xi and the Beijing leadership not to presume to work through anyone but him. The fate of North Korea’s special economic zones and other Chinese-style economic innovations now hangs in doubt.

Optimists might hope that the purge will finally convince China of its ally’s unreliability. In fact, though Beijing’s tolerance for Kim’s provocations has been tested, it has never snapped. China still values regime stability over all else: The last thing Beijing wants to see is a reunified Korean Peninsula, governed from Seoul, and allied to the U.S. Jang’s downfall doesn’t change that calculus.

The purge could well end up pushing China and its errant vassal closer together. After Jang’s execution, Japan’s hawkish Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera warned, “North Korea might become a more radical place in the future.” Next Tuesday the Japanese government is expected to approve a more assertive defense policy, one that is justified by the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs but that clearly has China in mind as well.

The U.S., too, has cited the North Korean threat to justify stationing ballistic missle defense systems on Guam next year. And this week Japan and South Korea — whose relations have soured recently over questions about Japan’s attitude toward its war record — went ahead with a previously scheduled, joint naval exercise in the East China Sea.

Xi and others in China may also not be as perturbed by Jang’s ouster as some commentators seem to think. The late No. 2’s influence had been declining for almost a year; in May 2013, Kim dispatched a Jang rival as a special envoy to Beijing. It’s also not clear that the purge will necessarily derail some of the economic reforms Jang had championed. On Monday, the day after his public humiliation, the North signed a contract to develop yet another special economic zone along the Chinese border.

Jang’s purge, though, is hardly reassuring to China. Among other things, the Politburo charged Jang with “throwing the state financial management system into confusion and committing such acts of treachery as selling off precious resources of the country at cheap prices” — in other words, cutting deals that were too generous to the Chinese.

No doubt the youngest Kim had many reasons for ousting his uncle — not least, to send a message to an older generation of North Korean officials not to dare challenge the Dear Leader’s authority. To Xi and China, the message seems to be slightly different: it’s time to pay up.

 

International concern over N Korea execution – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

International concern over N Korea execution – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

The reported execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s powerful uncle has caused worries over the stability of the isolated country, with various governments expressing concern over the potential implications of the move.

The state-run KCNA news agency announced on Friday that a special military trial was held for the once-influential Jang Song-thaek before he was executed on Thursday.

Jang, who had been branded as “traitor” and dismissed from his positions and powers on Monday, was accused of a string of criminal acts including corruption, womanising and drug-taking.

“The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crimes as attempting to overthrow the state,” KCNA reported.
South Korea on Friday expressed “deep concern” over the developments, and said it would prepare for “all possibilities in the future” and coordinate closely with its allies.

“The North usually curbs internal instability by waging provocations externally,” the Ryoo Kihl-Jae, the South Korean unification minister said, warning the purge could be followed by military actions, including another nuclear test.

China, Pyongyang’s major ally and economic lifeline, said Jang’s execution was an “internal matter” but also stressed the need for stability.

“As a neighbour we hope to see national stability, economic development and people living in happiness in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.

Tokyo said that it was “closely watching the situation”.

“We will calmly monitor the situation while communicating with other countries and collect relevant information,” the Kyodo news agency quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as saying.

‘Deep concern’

Washington said that the execution was “another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime”.

The North usually curbs internal instability by waging provocations externallyRyoo Kihl-Jae, South Korea’s unification minister

“We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region,” Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said.

London expressed “deep concern about the impact of this unpredictable regime on stability in the region”.

“Our embassy in Pyongyang is monitoring the situation closely and we will continue to maintain close contact with our allies on this,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Friday carried a photograph of Jang in handcuffs and being held by uniformed guards as he stood trial.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Bangkok, said the execution has laid bare a massive power struggle in the secretive country.

“It’s an incredibly public condemnation of this once very powerful man,” our correspondent said.

The sacking on Monday suggests Pyongyang is undergoing its biggest leadership upheaval since the death in 2011 of former leader Kim Jong-il, the younger Kim’s father.

‘Wild ambition’

KCNA said earlier this week that Jang had been removed from all his posts and expelled from the Workers’ Party.

“From long ago, Jang had a dirty political ambition. He dared not raise his head when Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were alive,” KCNA said, referring to leader Kim’s grandfather and father, who were previous rulers of the dynastic state.

“He began revealing his true colours, thinking that it was just the time for him to realise his wild ambition in the period of historic turn when the generation of the revolution was replaced.”

Jang was married to Kim’s aunt, the daughter of the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung, and was widely considered to be working to ensure his nephew firmly established his grip on power in the past two years.

Jang had been a prominent fixture in many of the reports and photographs of Kim Jong-un’s public activities, but his appearances have tapered off sharply this year and he has not appeared in official media since early November.

 

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