It would seem that Kim Jong-un is focused on securing his authority and power and eliminating any potential threats, no matter how minor.
According to The Daily Caller, Chinese authorities arrested a gang of what they suspect are North Korean assassins sent by Kim Jong-un. The target was Kim Han-sol, son of Kim Jong-un’s deceased half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.
Kim Jong-nam was assassinated earlier this year in a Malaysian airport. Two women, one from Vietnam and the other from Indonesia, attacked Kim Jong-nam with VX, a lethal nerve gas. The women were caught by authorities, but their North Korean handlers escaped back to North Korea. The women pled not guilty, claiming they were under the impression it was supposed to be a prank.
According to the Independent, Kim Jong-un had been targeting Kim Jong-nam since he rose to power. Kim Jong-un had been given the mantle of power because his older brother Kim Jong-nam had expressed negative views of the DPRK, yet his brother likely still posed a threat to Kim Jong-un.
It’s possible that Kim Han-sol was targeted for the same reason. As the descendant of Kim Jong-nam, he would have claim to the rule of North Korea and could theoretically challenge Kim Jong-un for that position one day.
Many of Kim Jong-un’s actions have signified a seeming paranoia about losing his life or position of power. In 2011, Kim Jong-un’s father passed away, leaving him the leader of North Korea. At the time, his uncle, Jang Song Thaek was one of his most trusted advisers.
Yet in 2013, Jang Song Thaek was publicly executed by firing squad under Kim Jong-un’s orders following accusations that he was trying to strip Kim Jong-un of his power through a military coup.
His recent belligerence towards the US and its allies is believed to be the result of a failed assassination attempt in 2013. Intelligence agencies in South Korea say Kim Jong-un was the target of “disgruntled people inside the North” after the dictator demoted a four-star general.
Following the power struggle, Kim Jong-un quickly began threatening nuclear attacks against his neighbors and the US. Some believe this is his means of exerting fear, respect, and authority among dissenters within his circle.
Since 2013, Kim Jong-un has been expanding North Korea’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities. It’s possible that Kim Jong-un is hoping to achieve a level of military might that recognizes his nation as one of the global superpowers, which would add greater legitimacy and authority to his reign.
Kim Jong-un ordered the assassination of his half-brother’s son. Is North Korea a threat to world peace?
It’s these acts of aggression and assassinations of family members that signify Kim Jong-un’s leadership is tenuous, if only in his mind. With the US failing to bow down to his intimidations and his largest ally, China, similarly growing frustrated by his actions, this effort to be perceived as a military threat is backfiring — especially considering the economic sanctions devastating his people could be making additional enemies domestically.
Yet if the threats are genuinely required to retain leadership, he doesn’t have much choice in the matter. If he believes that his enemies within the DPRK would perceive his backing down as weakness, he’ll likely keep up the charade until he can secure his rule by assassinating those who pose a threat to him.