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North Korea accuses CIA of biochemical plot to kill Kim Jong-un

The Guardian – Ewen MacAskill/London & Justin McCurry/Osaka – Friday 5 May 2017
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Photo: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un waves during a military parade in Pyongyang on 15 April. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP.

North Korea has accused the CIA of attempting to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong-un, using unspecified biochemical substances during a public ceremonial event in the capital, Pyongyang.

The ministry of state security issued a statement claiming the US intelligence agency had bribed a North Korean citizen, named only as Kim, to carry out the plot. It said possible locations for the killing included the mausoleum where Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather – the country’s founder – lie in state, or a military parade.

The accusation comes amid rising tensions over North Korea’s rogue nuclear programme, with Pyongyang issuing increasingly belligerent rhetoric in a tense standoff with the Trump administration.

Like other North Korean claims, the allegation that the CIA plotted to assassinate Kim is impossible to verify. Media reports about the regime are tightly controlled by the state’s propaganda machinery and often designed merely to burnish the leader’s reputation. A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment.

Frequent references to the presence of a hostile force bent on assassinating the North Korean leadership, and threatening the country’s very existence, are a time-honoured tactic designed to shore up public support at home.

While the CIA’s long history of attempting covert assassinations of political leaders across the world is notorious, the intelligence agency was forced to cut back on such operations after a Senate inquiry in the 1970s exposed the scale of the assassinations and concluded the policy was counter-productive.

The North Korean ministry’s statement said: “The heinous crime, which was recently uncovered and smashed in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], is a kind of terrorism against not only the DPRK but the justice and conscience of humankind and an act of mangling the future of humankind.”

It added that “assassination by use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance is the best method that does not require access to the target”.

Kim, the alleged hitman, was described as “human scum” who had received payments totalling at least $740,000 and was given satellite transceivers and other materials and equipment, according to the ministry.

He had multiple contacts with South Korean intelligence personnel, and an accomplice who had a Chinese-sounding name, Xu Guanghai of the Qingdao Nazca Trade Co.

No details were given in the ministry statement of how the supposed plot was uncovered, or of Kim’s fate. But in a potential sign of an internal purge, it said the ministry would “ferret out and mercilessly destroy the terrorists”.

There have been a number of reported assassination attempts on Kim and his late father, but western analysts and intelligence officials attributed most of them to homegrown plots inspired by disaffected military and other officials.

Against the present tension, Pyongyang may have decided it is politically more convenient to blame Washington than admit it was a purely internal plot.

In spite of cutting back on assassinations, the US has continued to engage in what it refers to as targeted killings and has mounted attacks since the 1970s on leaders such as the late Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi and the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

It has much more sophisticated weapons than snipers or the exploding cigars sent to the late Cuban president Fidel Castro. The digital age has increased the number of options for killing covertly. A CIA document released by WikiLeaks earlier this year showed the agency looking at ways of hacking into car operating systems.

The mythology in North Korea surrounding the Kim dynasty centres on the country’s economic, political and military superiority over South Korea and its allies in the west.

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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