South Korea to maintain high military vigilance

Seoul, Dec 13: South Korea Friday pledged to maintain high military vigilance — a day after North Korea executed Jang Song-thaek, once the hermit kingdom’s number two man and uncle of the country’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korean defence chief Kim Kawn-jin said the high vigilance would be maintained to deter potential provocations by the unpredictable Communist regime, Yonhap reported.

“We will heighten readiness against North Korea as (Jang’s execution) can lead to provocations against the South,” Kim said in a parliamentary defence meeting.

“This case can be seen as part of the reign of terror by Kim Jong-un as he is seeking to consolidate his power with an iron fist,” he said.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported early Friday the execution of the once powerful Jang, just four days after he was stripped of all his powers. He was married to Kim Jong-un’s biological aunt.

Jang had been stripped of all posts and titles for “anti-party and counter-revolutionary crime” after an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee Sunday.

According to KCNA, Jang, who was vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission and secretary of the WPK administration department, was executed Thursday immediately after a special military tribunal convicted him of committing “unforgivable crime as traitor”.

Labeled as a so-called “reformer” by outside forces, Jang has been day-dreaming about being recognised as a “new regime”, the special military tribunal said in its verdict.

The 67-year-old senior general admitted at the trial that he premeditated a coup against Kim, the report said.

Under North Korea’s constitution, he was sentenced to death and the execution was carried out immediately, less than a week before the second anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong-il.

According to Yonhap, Kim Kawn-jin said in the South Korean parliamentary defence meeting Friday that, although the ruling WKP can continue to rule the state, the Communist regime could misjudge security situations for several reasons, including a rivalry among the military inner circle to show their loyalty to Kim Jong-un.

“South Korea and the US are closely watching situations inside of North Korea,” Kim said, noting his military has not yet raised its surveillance status as no special movement has been detected in the North.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said the recent purge is likely to be followed by military provocations, including a nuclear bomb test.

Touching on the speculation that the North will soon conduct its fourth nuclear test, the minister said in a parliamentary meeting: “That is probable. We are keeping an eye on such a possibility.”

“I have seen in the past that the North usually curbs internal (agitation) through waging provocations externally,” Yonhap quoted Ryoo as saying.

Earlier in the day, South Korea had expressed deep concern about the series of occurrences in North Korea, including the execution of Jang Song-Thaek.

“The government is closely monitoring the series of incidents, which are happening in North Korea, with deep concerns,” Xinhua quoted unification ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do as saying in a statement.