The US has warned North Korea against any “provocative acts” following the shock execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle, as the reclusive state campaigned to rally support behind the young supremo.
Washington also sought to step up talks with its Asian allies, voicing concern over regional stability after Jang Song-thaek — seen as Kim’s political regent and the country’s unofficial No. 2 — was executed on Thursday following a special military trial.
“Certainly, it’s something we’re concerned about, and we would urge the North Koreans not to take provocative acts, not to do so going forward, because it’s not in the interest of regional stability,” US Department of State spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Friday.
The comments came after South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-Jin pledged to increase military vigilance against any potential provocations, saying the stunning purge indicated Kim Jong-un’s firm resolve to tighten his grip on power.
“We will heighten readiness against North Korea as [Jang’s execution] can lead to provocations against the South,” he said at South Korea’s parliamentary defense meeting on Friday. “This case can be seen as part of the reign of terror by Kim Jong-un as he is seeking to consolidate his power with an iron fist.”
He said the Stalinist regime risked misjudging the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, voicing concern over rivalry among North Korean military leaders eager to prove their loyalty.
Meanwhile, the reclusive state yesterday launched a fresh media blitz in a bid to rationalize Jang’s elimination and rally support behind Kim Jong-un.
Rodong Sinmun, the official daily, splashed on its front page a color photograph of Kim Jong-un, wearing a great coat with his hands in his pockets, touring a military design institute in his first public activity following the purge.
He was accompanied by Choe Ryong-hae, a close confidant who holds the military rank of vice marshal, and trailed by other military officers, one of whom was seen jotting down Kim Jong-un’s “field-guidance” instructions in his notebook.
The inspection trip was apparently aimed at displaying the leader’s continued stranglehold on power after the shocking elimination of Jang, condemned by Pyongyang as “a traitor for all ages.”
Pyongyang also appeared to be cracking down on Jang’s loyalists, with Yonhap news agency saying North Korean businesspeople in China have been summoned back in large numbers.
The move appeared aimed at cracking the whip on those “classified as having connections” with Jang, who served as a key go-between for relations with China, Yonhap said yesterday, citing unnamed sources.
Jang, 67, played a major role in cementing the leadership of the inexperienced leader when he succeeded his father, late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2011, but analysts said his power and influence had become increasingly resented.