Kim 'nervous' about assassination bid

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un basking in applause at the 8th Congress of the Korean Children's Union in Pyongyang earlier this month.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un basking in applause at the 8th Congress of the Korean Children's Union in Pyongyang earlier this month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

North Korea's leader said to take precautions, fearing operations by South and US to kill him

SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to feel "extremely nervous" about possible clandestine operations by South Korea and the United States to eliminate him, Seoul's intelligence agency told a closed-door parliamentary session.

He prefers to move at dawn, and also uses his subordinates' cars, such as a Lexus, instead of his own Mercedes-Benz 600, to evade detection, according to Mr Lee Cheol Woo of the main opposition Liberty Party of Korea, who attended the session on Thursday.

"Kim is engrossed in collecting information about the 'decapitation operation' through his intelligence agency," said Mr Lee, referring to the title of the clandestine operation targeting Kim.

The National Intelligence Services (NIS) also said Mr Kim has cut his propaganda public activities "by a significant amount", which suggests he has begun to feel confident about his grip on the communist state.

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"The number of Kim Jong Un's public activities was 51, a 32 per cent decrease from last year," an NIS official was quoted as saying by lawmaker Lee. "Since 2013, we have seen a downward trajectory of Kim's public activities. We believe Kim feels very confident (about his leadership). The number shows he has succeeded in grasping power and secured his status in the regime."

Analysts say the regime has set up new special operation forces in a bid to prevent attempts to incapacitate North Korea's wartime leadership. The Korean People's Army special forces were unveiled at a military parade in April to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il Sung, reported Yonhap news agency.

Officers from the new special forces had camouflage cream on their faces, and wore black sunglasses. They marched in formation and carried a new type of rifle equipped with grenade launchers, and donned helmets with night-vision goggles.

At the annual joint military exercises held by South Korea and the US, which ended in April, the allies apparently practised drills to take out the North's leadership in the event of war, reported Yonhap news agency.

THOROUGHLY ABSORBED

Kim is engrossed in collecting information about the 'decapitation operation' through his intelligence agency.

MR LEE CHEOL WOO, of the opposition Liberty Party of Korea, referring to the title of the clandestine operation targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In January, South Korea announced that it will launch by this year a special unit tasked with incapacitating North Korea's wartime leadership, bringing forward the plan by two years.

"We are planning to set up a special brigade with the goal of removing or (at least) paralysing North Korea's wartime command structure," then Defence Minister Han Min Koo said at a New Year policy briefing.

There are also plans to upgrade South Korea's UH-60 military helicopters and other equipment to support the infiltration of special forces into Pyongyang.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have heightened following a string of missile launches by Pyongyang.

The North's missile and nuclear programme will top the agenda when US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae In meet in Washington at the end of this month.

KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Kim 'nervous' about assassination bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe