According to reports out of the region, two North Korean agents were taken into custody in China after law enforcement foiled a plot to assassinate the nephew of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong un.
Kim Han-sol, the target of the alleged assassination attempt, is the eldest son of the now deceased Kim Jong-nam, who was once slated to helm the reclusive North Korean state rather than his half-brother, Kim Jong un. Kim Jong-nam was killed using nerve agent known as VX earlier this year in a Malaysian airport, in another incident that has been linked to North Korean operatives.
Following the death of Jong-nam, a number of North Korean defectors indicated that his son, Kim Han-sol would likely be the next target, citing Kim’s need to remove dissident members of the Supreme Leader’s family, as they could be perceived as barriers between Kim and amassing the support of the North Korean people. As the grandson of previous North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong il, Han-sol may still carry the respect of many North Korean citizens.
Thae Yong Ho, the former minister at London’s North Korean embassy who defected earlier this year, characterized Kim Jong-nam as “the biggest obstacle” in Kim’s pursuit of power. Following the death of Kim Jong-nam, Thae went on to explain that Kim Han-sol is “a being that cannot be tolerated from the perspective of Kim Jong un.”
“It remains to be seen how possible his survival would be.” He added.
Kim Jong-nam made a number of public statements that were critical of Kim Jong un, primarily regarding foreign policy and trade from outside the borders of North Korea, after he and his family left the country to live in exile. His son, apparently the most recent target Kim’s attempt to consolidate power, has also claimed to cut all ties with his home nation, citing North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as his reason.
“A source in North Korea said on October 30, ‘Special operatives belonging to the North’s reconnaissance squad have penetrated to remove Kim Han-sol, but some of them were arrested last week by the Chinese Ministry of National Security and are currently under investigation at special facilities outside Beijing.’” read a report published in JoongAng Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily newspaper, on Monday.
A total of seven North Korean agents were in China, according to the unverified report, though only two were actually taken into custody by Chinese law enforcement.
After the successful assassination of his father, Kim Han-sol released a video online via a group calling itself Cheollima Civil Defense, stating that his life was in danger, and that he and his family hope things “get better soon.” The group, who claim to be protecting what remains of that branch of the Kim family, state plainly on their website that their locations must be kept secret for their safety.
“We have in the past addressed other urgent needs for protection. This will be the first and last statement on this particular matter, and the present whereabouts of this family will not be addressed,” the group says in a statement on their website.
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