Friday, December 13, 2013

NightWatch For the night of 12 December 2013: north Korea, Syria

Mr. McCreary provides excerpts of the north's bizarre statements on the charges against Jang Song-taek.  It is too early to speculate what may happen though I think we have to be concerned with the internal regime stability.  On the one hand if the allegations are true then it appears that Jang may have formed a credible faction, credible enough to have either scared or pissed off Kim Jong-un enough to take this seemingly drastic action.  The paradox is that it is very possible that there is significant friction with the regime as evidenced by Jang's alleged actions, yet the nature of the system provides protection to the system (i.e. the system being the reign of the Kim Family Regime) and this may be able to crush any such opposition despite any weakness (perceived or actual) of Kim Jong-un.  The question is will this seemingly drastic action serve to deter any remaining followers of Jang or will resistance develop further among the elite (I still do not think we are likely to see any popular or grass roots resistance yet).  I think the other thing that we should be concerned about is that these alleged actions by Kim seem to confirm some of the rumors we have heard about analysts saying that he has psychopathic tendencies.  We recall the execution of a senior leader last winter in which mortars were used to destroy him.  Some of the charges are bizarre such as failing to stand and clap enthusiastically enough for Kim (and I think the whole list of charges may be warnings to all north Koreans and remind everyone of how they have to pay homage to the cult leadership of the Kim Family Regime). I heard a report (unconfirmed) on Korean television last evening that Jang was executed using machine guns – not your typical firing squad execution.  

There is of course another partial possible explanation for all this and that is the usual Korea "royal" soap opera like intrigue (must like the historical Korean movie and TV dramas).  One report I read said that the final approval for the execution was made by Jang's wife, Kim Jong-un's aunt.  I wonder if a part of all this is Kim Kyong Hui's jealousy or anger with Jang's womanizing (which of course was one of the charges against him).

But the bottom line is we do not know what is going on inside the regime.  Kim may have quashed any remaining resistance.  I think he may truly be operating on his own (and he may have been "insulted" to have Jang and his aunt referred to as his "regents" overseeing him).  But given what may be Kim's potential personality disorder, along with his inexperience, and likely paranoia caused by Jang's alleged actions we are likely to see miscalculations by Kim that could have significant and dangerous consequences.  The ROk/US Alliance as well as China will need to be vigilant.

In Syria, alleged "coup" took place by jihadist rebels against Free Syria opposition leader causing the general to flee.  Things do not look good for the Syrian opposition.

For the night of 12 December 2013
North Korea: North Korea announced that Chang Sung-taek, uncle and former regent for Kim Jong Un, was tried on 12 December by a military tribunal at which he confessed to treason, was sentenced to death and was executed on 13 December.
The Korean Central News Agency published an explanation of Chang's crimes and the events leading to his execution. Excerpts follow.
"Upon hearing the report on the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, the service personnel and people throughout the country broke into angry shouts that a stern judgment of the revolution should be meted out to the anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional elements."
"Against the backdrop of these shouts rocking the country, a special military tribunal of the DPRK Ministry of State Security was held on 12 December against traitor for all ages Jang Song Thaek."
"The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state."
"The tribunal examined Jang's crimes. All the crimes committed by the accused were proved in the course of hearing and were admitted by him."
"A decision of the special military tribunal of the Ministry of State Security of the DPRK was read out at the trial.
Every sentence of the decision served as sledge-hammer blow brought down by our angry service personnel and people on the head of Jang, an anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional element and despicable political careerist and trickster."
"The accused is a traitor to the nation for all ages who perpetrated anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership of our party and state and the socialist system. Jang was appointed to responsible posts of the party and state thanks to the deep political trust of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il and received benevolence from them more than any others from long ago."
"He held higher posts than before and received deeper trust from supreme leader Kim Jong Un, in particular.
The political trust and benevolence shown by the peerlessly great men of Mt. Paektu were something he hardly deserved."
"It is an elementary obligation of a human being to repay trust with sense of obligation and benevolence with loyalty. However, despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader for him…."
"Jang committed such an unpardonable thrice-cursed treason as overtly and covertly standing in the way of settling the issue of succession to the leadership with an axe to grind when a very important issue was under discussion to hold respected Kim Jong Un in high esteem as the only successor to Kim Jong Il in reflection of the unanimous desire and will of the entire party and army and all people…."
"Jang confessed that he behaved so at that time as a knee-jerk reaction as he thought that if Kim Jong Un's base and system for leading the army were consolidated, this would lay a stumbling block in the way of grabbing the power of the party and state. "
"When Kim Jong Il passed away so suddenly and untimely to our sorrow, he began working in real earnest to realize its long-cherished greed for power."
"In a bid to rally a group of reactionaries to be used by him for toppling the leadership of the party and state, he let the undesirable and alien elements including those who had been dismissed and relieved of their posts after being severely punished for disobeying the instructions of Kim Jong Il and kowtowing to him work in a department of the Central Committee of the WPK and organs under it in a crafty manner."
"Jang did serious harm to the youth movement in our country, being part of the group of renegades and traitors in the field of youth work bribed by enemies. Even after they were disclosed and purged by the resolute measure of the party, he patronized those cat's paws and let them hold important posts of the party and state. "
Comment: Chang's ultimate crime was treason in that he supposedly plotted to overthrow the leadership. The report contains a jumble of accusations that date to the time of Kim Chong-il. Chang had a reputation for wheeling and dealing in capitalist-style with Chinese and South Korean investors, among others, but none of that merited execution. He always rebounded and was promoted to positions of high trust.
Some of the more curious accusations describe his efforts to build a following from those dismissed by Kim Chong-il and by Kim Jong Un. That implies that discontent with the current leadership runs wide and deep. It does not imply that the alleged plotters would be any less Stalinist or ruthless or less hostile to the US.
The swift execution of Chang deprives the government of any additional information about plotting or schemes. That is not the usual North Korean practice. The government behavior indicates it is afraid that Chang's supporters might stage an uprising were he allowed to remain alive. This situation is unstable and dangerous.
Chang was friendly with the Chinese when Kim Chong-il was not. Chang kept the lines of communication open. The leaders in Beijing have lost a sympathetic interlocutor at a pivotal time when they require stability. Chinese relations with the North are likely to be strained and less stable. That means China will have less diplomatic influence on North Korea than usual.
The North Koreans will not care, officially. They will fall back on their national doctrine of "chuche" (self-reliance) as they customarily do in times of stress. They will be dangerous and require extra vigilance by the allies because the upheaval in North Korea does not appear to have ended.
Syria: A Free Syrian Army officer alleged that the jihadist Islamic Front staged a coup this week against moderate General Salim Idris and his staff. That is why the general fled. Other battlefield reports indicate the jihadists executed six commanders of the Free Syrian Army for collaboration with the Syrian government forces in northern Syria.
Meanwhile, the general denied fleeing. He told the press he was trying to organize the resistance by holding talks in Qatar between moderate forces and jihadists. Reportedly he returned to Turkey, but not Syria.
The Kurds beat back another attempt by jihadists affiliated with al-Qaida to take capture a town in northeastern Syria.
Comment: Cumulatively the battlefield reports suggest this week the jihadists attempted to seize control of the opposition through executions, clashes and decapitation of the moderate leadership. They did not succeed, but the opposition is even more fragmented. Fighting continues, but opposition exertions show no signs of contributing to a campaign or overall strategy.
End of NightWatch for 12 December.
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