Kim Jong Un at it again: N Korea dismisses top officials
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dismissed top officials after a recent standoff with South Korea, state media reported on Friday, a move that suggests the young leader holds them responsible for allowing the confrontation to nearly spin out of control.
The rival Koreas earlier this week threatened strikes against each other before agreeing on measures to reduce animosity. The standoff began after land mines that Seoul says the North planted maimed two South Korean soldiers. Seoul responded by resuming propaganda broadcasts critical of Kim’s authoritarian rule for the first time in 11 years.
Pyongyang then threatened to destroy the South Korean loudspeakers, and Seoul says the rivals exchanged artillery fire at the border.
During a ruling Workers’ Party meeting, Kim hailed the agreement, which came after marathon talks, as a “crucial landmark” that put “catastrophic” inter-Korean relations back on track toward reconciliation, according to Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency. Kim also dismissed an unspecified number of members of the party’s Central Military Commission, which handled the standoff, a KCNA dispatch said.
It gave no reasons for the dismissals, but outside analysts said they may have been sacked because they misjudged South Korea’s strong response to the mine blasts.
North Korea is intolerant of any outside criticism of its political system and worries, analysts say, that the broadcasts heard over the border could demoralize frontline troops and residents and eventually weaken Kim’s leadership.
South Korea switched off its loudspeakers Tuesday after North Korea expressed “regret” that the South Korean soldiers were injured by the mine explosion. The vague agreement allows Pyongyang to continue denying it laid the mines and Seoul to claim that the term “regret” signals an apology.
South Korean officials hope the agreement will help improve ties, but the two Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on past reconciliation accords, and their ties have been bad since conservatives took power in Seoul in early 2008.
During the party meeting Kim also ordered soldiers to help a recently flooded city, a sign of his need to show his people he cares about a decrepit economy.
Since taking over after the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has vowed to revive the economy and boost standards of living even as he pushes development of nuclear-armed missiles condemned by neighboring countries and the United States.