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15 Mar, 2013 17:22

North K. leader 'was target of assassination attempt' - reports

North K. leader 'was target of assassination attempt' - reports

Kim Jong-un was recently the target of an assassination attempt, according to media reports. The alleged murder plot may have been the work of a faction loyal to one of the North’s top military officials.

The source though did not immediately reveal who was behind the attack or its exact timing, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reports in South Korea. 

It alleged the assassination attempt appeared to be related to the recent fall and rise of a powerful four-star general Kim Yong-chol, who was demoted last year before being restored to his previous rank and rehabilitated.

General Kim picked up a reputation for being an aggressive military official who was behind the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in March 2010. Following promotion to a four-star general in February 2012, he was demoted to a two-star lieutenant general just nine months later because of the power struggle when the intelligence department of the Workers' Party and a division of the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces were merged into the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The General has since been restored to his four-star status and even appeared alongside Kim Jong-un at a musical recital in Pyongyang last month.

AFP Photo / KCNA

"It appeared that disgruntled people inside the North moved before the time of the demotion of Kim Yong-chol," British newspaper the Express has quoted a source as saying.

The source said an internal power struggle took place last year at the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which was run by General Kim and oversees South Korean operations.

The South Korean newspaper also reports that an exchange of gunfire in Pyongyang last November may have signaled the attempt.

The power struggle even involved an exchange of gunfire, the source said, and it is believed those involved were also behind the attempt on the life of Kim Jong-un.

“The people who were purged after the gunfight could be related to the assassination attempt,” the source added.

There were reports saying that North Korea ‘test fired’ two short-range missiles into the East Sea on Friday.

"The launch was seen as testing its capability for short-range missiles. It seemed to be conducted on a military-unit level, not at a national level," Yonhap news agency has quoted a source in the form of an unnamed military officer.

AFP Photo / KCNA

It’s not tensions between North and South Koreas, but a breakdown between the country’s generals and their young leader Kim Jong-Un which seem to imply that the dictator did not order the test, according to the source.

However, there has been a direct escalation of tension between North and South following the successful test of a nuclear weapon by Pyongyang in February 2013. Earlier, in December 2012, North Korea also successfully launched a rocket carrying a satellite. South Korea then carried out military exercises, with the United States. In turn, the US and the UN have imposed new economic sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea announced its withdrawal from the 60-year armistice agreement with Seoul on Wednesday.

On March 11 the North Korean leader visited artillery positions on the DPRK border and said that North Korea was ready to strike at a small South Korean island of Baengnyeong and turn it into a "sea of flames."