A former North Korean spy has claimed Pyongyang’s threats of military action are a sign that Kim Jong-un is struggling to control his armed forces.
Kim Hyun-Hee, who bombed a South Korean airliner in 1987 on the orders of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, killing 115 people, said the young Kim is still attempting to consolidate his leadership following his father’s death in 2011.
Ms Kim planted the bomb during a stopover in the Gulf, but was caught with a colleague in Bahrain as they tried to flee using fake Japanese passports. They both ate their Pyongyang-issue cyanide capsules. The man died instantly but she somehow survived. Ms Kim was sent to Seoul and was eventually pardoned after confessing, although she admitted to ABC that she now lives in constant fear of assassins from the North tracking her down.
“Kim Jong-un is too young and too inexperienced,” she told Australia’s ABC television from a secret address in Seoul. “He’s struggling to gain complete control over the military and to win their loyalty. That’s why he’s doing so many visits to military bases, to firm up support.” It is not known what links Ms Kim still has in the North, and her assessment of the situation runs counter to that of other veteran Pyongyang watchers.
South Korea raised its surveillance alert level to “vital threat” – the last stage before war – amid fears that Pyongyang is set to launch a medium range missile, capping weeks of threats and psychological warfare. Seoul said the chances of a launch were “very high” ahead of the birth date next Monday of the North’s founder, Kim Il-sung. Intelligence sources say the missile is likely to be the untested Musudan, whose range of up to 3,500km technically put?s Japan and the US territory of Guam within reach.
Though many military experts doubt the North’s missile capabilities, Japan has already deployed Patriot missiles in Tokyo and Aegis destroyers to its coast, and is threatening to shoot down the North Korean missile.
The North’s official news agency warned on Tuesday that the situation on the Korean Peninsular is “inching closer to a thermonuclear war”. But Ms Kim told ABC she believes North Korea is merely “using its nuclear program... to push South Korea and the United States for concessions”.
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