North Korean leader Kim Jong-un faced an assassination attempt in Pyongyang last year during a power struggle in a military bureau, a Seoul-based intelligence source told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday.
“The authorities are paying special attention because the attempt was made in downtown Pyongyang, not during one of Kim’s regional trips outside the capital city,” said the source, who is well-informed about North Korean affairs.
Although the source did not reveal the exact timing of the incident or who was behind the attack, he said the move appeared to be related to the recent fall and rise of a general.
“It appeared that disgruntled people inside the North moved before the time of the demotion of Kim Yong-chol, director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, in November,” the source said.
Known as one of the closest associates of the young North Korean leader, General Kim was an aggressive commander who was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March 2010, which Pyongyang denies being behind, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November that year.
Kim Yong-chol was promoted to four-star general in February 2012 but was demoted to two-star lieutenant general in November. It was revealed that he had bounced back when he appeared in a photo wearing four stars while accompanying Kim Jong-un to a choir performance on Feb. 26.
He appeared on television last week to say that Pyongyang could “cancel the 1953 armistice agreement” that halted the fighting in the Korean War.
The source said an internal power struggle took place last year at the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which oversees South Korea operations. The power struggle even involved an exchange of gunfire, the source said.
Created in 2009, the Reconnaissance General Bureau is considered one of the key pillars of support for the Kim Jong-un regime. It was created by merging intelligence departments of the Workers’ Party and the South Korea operations organs under the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces.
According to the source, officials originally from the operations department and the external liaison department of the Workers’ Party fought over leadership of the Reconnaissance General Bureau and a gun battle broke out.
After he took responsibility for the incident, Kim Yong-chol suffered a demotion to three-star general and a second demotion after Kim Jong-un was faced with an assassination attempt in Pyongyang, the source said. “The people who were purged after the gunfight could be related to the assassination attempt,” he said.
South Korean intelligence authorities believe the latest moves by Kim Jong-un to ratchet up tensions through a series of war threats are linked to the incident last year.
Their analysis is that Kim is siding with military hard-liners to solidify his regime and seek internal unity.
To this end, they say, the North Korean leader has a three-stage scenario to bring about fear of a nuclear war in both the North and South Korea, the source said.
The first stage is issuing war threats against the South and spreading the idea that a war is imminent, the source said.
The second stage is reportedly forcing foreigners in the North to leave the country, warning that their personal safety cannot be guaranteed in time of war. The North would also inform foreign diplomatic missions in Pyongyang to pull out their citizens.
The third step will be a terrorist attack on a public installation in the South such as an airport, or an armed attack like the sinking of the Cheonan, the source said.
“They are afraid that the public will be very agitated by forthcoming food shortages in April,” another official said. “Kim Jong-un doesn’t want to start a war. He just wants to escalate tensions to unite his people and find a way through the tightened sanctions.”
The official also said the North is likely to stage an attack that cannot be conclusively blamed on it.
A source familiar with intel on North Korea told the JoongAng Ilbo that there was a failed but violent attempt to remove Kim Jong-un from power in downtown Pyongyang last year.
Who did what when was not specified, but the source said the attempt appears to have been launched by unhappy campers sometime prior to Gen. Kim Yong-chol’s demotion in November. The source also said it was worth noting this attempt took place in downtown Pyongyang, not while Kim was off in the provinces.
Gen. Kim, BTW, is a military hardliner who commanded the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong-do in 2010. North Korea apparently treats its generals like George Steinbrenner used to treat Yankee prospects—Kim was made a four star general in February of last year, but was demoted to two stars in November. Last month, however, he appeared at a performance with Kim Jong-un wearing four stars again.
The source also noted there was a firefight between different factions of the General Reconnaissance Bureau last year. The General Reconnaissance Bureau, which oversees operations against the South, was created in 2009 after several smaller organizations were merged. Alumni from the merged organizations began fighting for control of the new bureau, with tensions eventually erupting into a firefight. Gen. Kim, who heads the bureau, took responsibility for the mess and was demoted to three stars, He was demoted again to two stars after the attempt on Kim’s life. Or so said the source, who noted that the attempt could have been related to a purge that took place after the bureau firefight.
According to the JoongAng, intelligence authorities believe the attempt on Kim Jong-un has played a role in North Korea’s naughty behavior of late—including the long-range missile test, nuke test and armistice threats. To wit, Kim has joined hands with hardliners to stabilize and unify his regime.
Sources also told the JoongAng Ilbo that Kim Jong-un has secretly ordered that a three-stage scenario be drawn up to really heighten fear of nuclear war.
The first stage is aimed primarily at South Korea and North Korea’s own people, and involves threats to abandon the Armistice to create a sense of crisis and the spreading of rumors that a war is soon to begin. In the second stage, North Korea would advise foreigners residing in North Korea to leave and inform foreign embassies to get their nationals out, warning that North Korea would be unable to guarantee their safety in the event of a war. If South Korea still hasn’t caved, the third stage would kick in, involving terrorist strikes on South Korean public facilities or limited provocations like the Cheonan sinking. A high-ranking government official said North Korea was really concerned about public discontent when the food situation turns bad in April. He said Kim Jong-un doesn’t really want a war, but it wants to solve the discontent by heightening the sense of crisis and find a way to get sanctions like South Korea’s May 24 sanctions removed. He added that he was concerned that North Korea would choose to go with something you couldn’t immediately pin on them—like a terrorist attack or the something like the Cheonan sinking—rather than a localized provocation in which they will likely suffer major retaliation.
Marmot’s Note: Could be bullshit. Or not. Don’t ask me—I don’t work for the CIA.
Маккавити прочитал с интересом, особенно в контексте иных публикаций Чунан Ильбо. Понятно, что покровы срывает очередной анонимус из разведки, и это весьма похоже на обработку общественного мнения перед возможной агрессией.Но разговоры о трехэтапном плане - взял на заметку.