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Defector: Kim Jong Un could be eyeing titular head-of-state position

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korea's Kim Jong Un could be taking on a new leadership role in Pyongyang, a defector said this week. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
North Korea's Kim Jong Un could be taking on a new leadership role in Pyongyang, a defector said this week. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, March 18 (UPI) -- A high-profile North Korean defector in the South said Kim Jong Un could be getting ready to amend the regime's constitution.

Thae Yong-ho, who fled Pyongyang's embassy in London with his family in 2016, said the results of North Korean elections for the 14th Supreme People's Assembly indicate Kim is looking to be appointed titular head-of-state.

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Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, currently serves in the position.

Thae published the statement on his blog, less than a week after Kim was not found on a list of delegates newly elected to the assembly.

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Kim had been elected to the assembly five years ago. KCNA reported last week "99.99 percent" of voters went to the polls and all candidates received 100 percent of the vote. North Korea's central election commission reportedly collected all results submitted by district election committees and disclosed the names of the 687 delegates elected.

Thae said Kim's absence from the list is "unprecedented in North Korean history."

Kim could be strengthening his grip on power as the United States is looking to build a new strategy following the collapse of the second bilateral summit in Hanoi.

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U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Sunday in a radio interview Pyongyang was being "unhelpful" and was edging closer to a potential "breach of trust."

"The North Koreans were unfortunately not willing to do what they needed to do. Just last night, they issued an unhelpful statement that they're thinking of going back to nuclear and ballistic missile testing, which would not be a good idea on their part," said Bolton on AM 970 in New York.

On Friday North Korea said the Trump administration had created an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust.

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