Execution of No. 2 shows who is No.1

Seoul - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's swift execution of his uncle signalled that the young leader has adopted the "terror politics" employed by his father and grandfather to cement power, experts and media reports said.

"Kim Jong Un is saying he is in power," said Mr Bruce Klingner, former head of the United States Central Intelligence Agency's Korea desk, as reported by Bloomberg on Saturday. "He has taken power politics to an even higher and more brutal level than what his father and his grandfather did."

Jang Song Thaek, 67, was executed last Thursday following a special military tribunal, less than two weeks after he was slapped with charges that ran from corruption to treason.

Mr Kim's quick decision to kill Jang, widely seen as the regime's No. 2, has shown he is following the playbook of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, when it comes to the eradication of political opponents, said The Korea Times, citing North Korea analysts.

Former leader Kim Il Sung was known for purging his political enemies when he sought to consolidate power in the 1950s.

"Although high-ranking leaders, including members of the Kim family, have been deposed before, we haven't seen anything this public or dramatic since Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, purged his last major rivals in the late 1950s," said Professor Charles Armstrong, a North Korea expert at Columbia University.

"This seems to indicate the divisions within the Kim regime were more serious than previously thought," Prof Armstrong told the New York Times.

Mr Kim Jong Il, the young leader's father, showed no mercy to his enemies either. He purged more than 20,000 key political and military figures and their families through the North's military to solidify his power, according to The Korea Times.

The younger Mr Kim, believed to be about 30 years old, aimed to demonstrate through the execution that he alone controls the regime without oversight by any regents, said Mr Klingner.

North Korea's state news agency on Saturday reported Mr Kim's visit to a military design institute, his first public appearance since Jang's execution.

South Korea has pledged to maintain high military vigilance to deter potential provocations by the unpredictable communist regime, amid speculation that North Korea may soon launch its fourth nuclear test.

"The test is probable. We are keeping an eye on such a possibility," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae was quoted by Yonhap News as saying last Friday.

"I have seen in the past that the North usually curbs internal agitation through waging provocations externally."

Jang, husband of the late Kim Jong Il's sister, was considered a champion of Chinese-style economic reform. His pro-China stance may have aggravated the current leader's unease about Beijing's potential pursuit of a regime change , said Mr An Chan Il, head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies.

Prof Armstrong believed that China has "lost key leverage" on North Korea after Jang's death.

"There is not much we can do because we don't know where to find purchase, where to put our hands," he said, adding that the US will have to go into close consultations with China.

"China is going to try to figure out if it has any impact," he said. "It had previously considered Jang Song Thaek to be as close as anyone to China."


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