Depending on how you read the signs, the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle and formerly trusted regent, Jang Song Thaek, either shows a young leader further cementing his control, or the first death throes of a regime teetering on collapse.
For Jasper Kim, the founder of the Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, North Korea remains for analysts a “Rubik’s Cube that no one can solve.”
He said that North Korea, famous for tightly controlling the drip feed of real information coming out of the country, was now sending out violently mixed messages. “The recent release of the prisoner (Merrill Newman) and this execution couldn’t be more at odds; what this indicates is that it’s a chaotic situation in there,” he added. “What this points to in terms of regime change is that it’s a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’
“Basically we are seeing the hardline faction reassert itself. For Kim Jong Un, Jang Song Thaek was the bridge between him and his father, and now he will have very little protection.”
For Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in Seoul, the purge of Jang shows a young leader consolidating his grip on power.
“Some of the reasons are quite obvious and very transparent and many predicted that this was going to happen. … But people did not expect that it would happen in such a dramatic and theatrical manner.”
“It was clear from the first days of his rule that he would remove most of the people around him. Jang was particularly vulnerable exactly because he was initially appointed by late Kim Jong Il to be a regent — the chief adviser to the young ruler.
“But being a regent is a dangerous job. The king gets older and he feels more and more irritation and to hold more of a grudge against these noisy, strange, grumpy old men.
In the absence of any independently verifiable information, and in a regime where paranoid rhetoric is the normal register of almost all diplomatic language, any conjecture is likely to be as accurate as it is to be wide of the mark.
[CNN]Tags: Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong Un, north korea