North Korea summons businessmen home from China

Dec. 14, 2013 at 10:17 AM
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SEOUL, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- North Korean business representatives in China have been summoned home amid what analysts see as a purge of the secretive country's elite.

The BBC said Saturday the directive appeared to be connected to this week's announcement that Jang Song-thaek, the official in charge of North Korea's economic dealings with China, had been executed.

Jang, who is also Kim's uncle, was publicly branded a traitor; however Western and South Korean analysts saw the execution as a purge and consolidation of power by Kim.

Kim made his first public appearance since Jang's demise when he inspected a military design facility on Saturday. China's Xinhua news agency said the youthful leader urged the designers to help lead the way to prosperity and "create a new history of construction in Songun (military-first) Korea," Kim was quoted as saying by Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency.

Xinhua noted Kim was accompanied by top government officials who were apparently still in his favor, including the head of the military and Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, director of the army's General Political Bureau.

While the general consensus among Korea watchers is that Kim if shoring up his own position, South Korea is not relaxing its vigilance.

South Korea's defense chief, Kim Kawn-jin, told lawmakers Friday the situation was being watched closely by Seoul and the United States even though there were no signs of increased military activity in the north.

"We will heighten readiness against North Korea as [Jang's execution] can lead to provocations against the South," Kim said in the parliamentary defense 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."

South Korea also cautioned this week that the provocations could include a nuclear bomb test to demonstrate that its program to develop a long-range nuclear missile was proceeding despite the political turmoil, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

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