>– North Korea’s Next Leader and State Security Chief Kim Jong Un Implicated in Murder Plot against Older Half-Brother Exiled in Macau; Kim Jong Nam Closely Allied with Beijing
– Former ROK President Roh “Committed Suicide” Two Days before DPRK’s Second Atomic Bomb Test
I believe we will face IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and insurgent forces, in addition to large conventional attacks.
— General Walter Sharp, commander of US forces in Republic of Korea, June 23, 2009
Pictured above: South Korean soldiers bow their heads at the National Cemetery in Seoul on June 25, 2009.
On June 23 the Japanese media revealed that North Korea plans to hold a live-fire military drill off its east coast between June 25 and July 10, coinciding with a long-range missile launch over the Pacific Ocean, possibly targeting Hawaii on the 4th of July. This revelation follows bans issued in the past month by Pyongyang prohibiting civilian ships from entering its waters in the Yellow Sea (west coast) and Sea of Japan (east coast). According to CNN, the Stalinist regime’s hydrographic department emailed this information to Japan’s coast guard on Monday. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) did not specify the consequences for ships entering those waters during the drill, but the North issued a similar notice before it tested a long-range rocket on April 5. On May 25 the DPRK tested its second atomic device in three years.
On June 17 the Korea Times confirmed that North Korea’s “missile train,” which transported an ICBM to a launch site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan province in May, recently moved from a missile research center in Sanum-dong, Pyongyang to another launch site in Musudan-ri, North Hamgyong province. Analysts in Seoul and Washington speculate that the North might simultaneously launch missiles from both sites. Alternately, the train could be a “smokescreen” to confuse observers. The DPRK apparently has three or four ICBMs, and may be keeping one or two more at the research center in Sanum-dong.
Since May, Pyongyang has considered almost any international resistance to its nuclear bomb and missile programs a “declaration of war.” This includes United Nations Security Council sanctions and South Korea’s participation in the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which seeks to interdict the transportation of WMDs on the high seas. Last Thursday, a senior US official disclosed that the navy is tracking a North Korean ship, Kang Nam, which left port on June 17 and is believed to be carrying illicit weapons or technology. Two days later the Kang Nam was spotted off the east coast of Mainland China. Earlier this month, Pyongyang in reprisal convicted two US journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, of illegally entering the country via the People’s Republic of China, and planning to conduct a smear campaign against the regime. Lee and Ling were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp.
The DPRK was established by Kim Il Sung, father of the regime’s current head of state, Kim Jong Il, at the end of the Second World War, under the aegis of Soviet occupational forces. At the same time, in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula US forces, fresh from their victory over the Japanese Empire, supported the new Republic of Korea. The North’s invasion of the South in 1950 led to the three-year Korean War and an armistice that Pyongyang scrapped last month. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is the most heavily fortified border in the world and a stark reminder that the Cold War has not ended on this part of the planet. However, according to a recent public opinion poll, most young South Koreans have little personal knowledge of that conflict more than half a century ago.
In response to North Korea’s pending missile launch, the US military has positioned more missile defenses around Hawaii, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates assured reporters last Thursday. “We do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile to the west in the direction of Hawaii,” Gates admitted. Without divulging details, he explained that a ground-based mobile missile system has been deployed in Hawaii and a radar system positioned nearby. “Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say … we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect Americans and American territory,” Gates said. Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper hypothesized that Pyongyang might launch the missile on July 4, which is Independence Day in the USA. The newspaper cited an analysis by Japan’s Defense Ministry and intelligence gathered by US spy satellites. Is Crazy Kim’s communist nuthouse crazy enough to attack Hawaii? We’re watching . . .
In a related story, reported by Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency, General Walter Sharp, who commands US forces in the Republic of Korea, warned South Korean army personnel that North Korean commandos could use explosive devices against both civilians and troops in rear areas, among other insurgent tactics, should war break out on the peninsula. “I believe we will face IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and insurgent forces, in addition to large conventional attacks,” Sharp said on Tuesday, adding:
The IEDs could target civilians as well as US and South Korean forces who should strengthen preparedness to tackle such threats. Realistic training ensures that the Republic of Korea is fully prepared for a thinking enemy, an enemy that will use IEDs, hide among the population and strike our rear forces and civilians. This enemy will require us to use our weapons much more precisely, to reduce civilian casualties and collateral damage.
A white paper published by the ROK’s defense ministry contends that the North’s 180,000 special warfare troops have expanded their capability to wage night-time combat, as well as mountain and street warfare. About 680,000 South Korean soldiers, equipped with the latest military technology and bolstered by 28,500 US troops, confront the North’s largely outdated 1.2 million-strong People’s Army. It can be surmised that whatever modern military hardware Pyongyang possesses, it must originate, openly or covertly, from Moscow and Beijing.
Meanwhile, political machinations within the North’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party regime continue. According to the Korea Times, close aides of Kim Jong Un, 26-year-old third son and heir apparent of Jong Il, last week attempted to assassinate the leader’s first son Jong Nam, who lives in Macau, a Special Administrative Region in the PRC. Citing Red Chinese government sources, the Korea Times elaborated: “Aides to Kim Jong-un planned to assassinate Jong-nam, who lives in Macau, after first eliminating his close aides in North Korea. The sources said, ‘It seems they tried to assassinate Kim Jong-nam without telling Kim Jong-il.’” Beijing foiled the plan by warning Pyongyang about the murder plot and by sending intelligence and military officers to escort Jong Nam to safety. The Korea Times’ government sources in Red China explained that the PRC is protecting Jong Nam because he has been developing friendships with high-ranking Communist Chinese officials for a long time. In fact, Jong Nam may seek asylum in Mainland China.
This is not the first time that North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty has been involved in assassination plots. In 1983 Seoul accused Jong Il of ordering the murder of South Korean President Jeon Du Hwan, then visiting Rangoon, Burma, now known as Myanmar. A bomb exploded at a mausoleum, killing 21 people, including South Korean cabinet members. Jeon narrowly escaped death. In 1987 Seoul accused Jong Il of ordering the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858, which killed 155 crew and passengers. DPRK agent Kim Hyon Hui confessed to planting the bomb aboard the airliner and admitted that Jong Il personally directed the operation. In the 1980s Jong Il had yet to succeed his father as head of state, but occupied senior posts in the Korean Workers’ Party’s Politburo, Military Commission, and Secretariat.
The fact that Jong Il recently placed his youngest son in charge of the State Security Department as a prelude to handing over control of the regime may have some bearing on Jong Un’s reported attempt to murder his half-brother. The Kims visited the headquarters of the State Security Department in March, at which time “Dear Leader” ordered the communist security chiefs to “uphold” his third son as head of the department. The State Security Department, reports the Korea Times, is the backbone of the Kim dynasty’s iron rule over North Korea. Pyongyang’s equivalent to the KGB monitors bureaucrats, soldiers, and civilians for any signs of dissent, as well as engages in espionage abroad.
On May 23, 2009 former South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun jumped to his death from a mountain cliff. Roh’s centrist Yeollin Uri Party, which ruled the ROK between 2004 and 2007, holds a conciliatory “Sunshine Policy” toward the DPRK, prompting opponents to label party members as communist sympathizers. Roh’s alleged suicide does not appear to have a North Korean connection but, in the context of the current escalation of tensions between the two Koreas since April, is somewhat suspicious. Roh died two days before Pyongyang carried out its second underground atomic bomb test. Coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not . . .