PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — In a sharp reversal of the long-held popular image of Jang Song Thaek as a kindly uncle guiding Kim Jong Un as he consolidated power, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency confirmed Kim Jong Un’s uncle has been executed as a traitor for trying to seize supreme power which comes as a stunning end for the leader’s former mentor, long considered the country’s No. 2 official.
Jang had been tried and executed, North Korea said, for “attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.” It called him a “traitor to the nation for all ages” and “worse than a dog.” They also indicated Jang had seen the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011 as an opportunity to challenge his nephew and win power.
The unusually detailed announcement came only days after North Korea said it had “eliminated” Jang from all his posts. Despite the strong language and allegations in the announcement Monday of Jang’s fall, there had been no sign in North Korean media of an imminent execution.Kim Jong Un has overseen other high-profile purges since taking over after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, two years ago. But none of the purges have been as public — or as close to home — as the downfall of Jang.
Analysts say Kim Jong Un has acted swiftly and ruthlessly to bolster his own power and show strength, but there are fears in Seoul that the removal of Jang and his followers could lead to instability, a miscalculation or even attack on the South.
Jang was seen by outsiders as a leading supporter of Chinese-style economic reforms, and an important link between Pyongyang and Beijing.
If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime.
Kim Jong Un has overseen nuclear and missile tests, other high-profile purges and a barrage of threats this spring, including vows of nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul during his two years in power.
The White House said it could not independently confirm reports of Jang’s execution, but has “no reason to doubt” the report from KCNA. Patrick Ventrell, a National Security Council spokesman, said, “if confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime.”
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