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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
North Korea has warned the United States of a “horrible disaster” and put its troops on alert over a joint naval drill involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier alongside South Korean and Japanese vessels.
The warning on Tuesday came after Seoul and Washington last week signed a new joint strategy to counter the growing threat of a North Korean nuclear attack after the communist country restarted an ageing plutonium reactor.
That accord also drew a sharp rebuke, with analysts attributing the isolated regime’s recent aggressive rhetoric to its desire to arouse the US’ attention and draw it back into long-stalled talks.
The naval drill in waters around the Korean peninsula had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but could be postponed or cancelled due to Typhoon Danas making its way towards the area.
North Korea has habitually condemned naval drills there and has issued threats of counter-attacks that have rarely materialised.
The North Korean troops have been ordered to “keep themselves fully ready to promptly launch operations any time”, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said, in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency….
- North Korea warns US of ‘horrible disaster’, places military on alert (worldnews.nbcnews.com)
- North Korea Puts Troops On Alert Over U.S.-Led Military Drill (fortunascorner.wordpress.com)
- North Korea Ready to Confront U.S.-South Korea Over Drills – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)