North Korea claims CIA plotted to kill Kim Jong-un

  • Published
North Korean leader Kim Jong-unImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
The plot involved targeting Kim Jong-un at a public event, officials said

North Korea has accused US and South Korean agents of plotting to kill its Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.

A North Korean referred to only as "Kim" was paid to carry out an attack with biochemical substances, the ministry of state security said.

The plot was foiled, it said, but gave no details on the fate of "Kim". The CIA declined to comment and South Korea has issued no statement so far.

The North's claim comes amid continued high tension on the Korean peninsula.

US President Donald Trump has promised to "solve" North Korea and stop it developing nuclear weapons.

An unconvincing case: Stephen Evans, BBC News, Seoul

The statement should be treated with scepticism. The regime has a track record of false information. It would be surprising if American or South Korean intelligence agencies didn't try to have agents in North Korea but the specific allegations about an assassination plot raise many questions.

Why hasn't a suspect been produced? Why does the KCNA statement cite poisoning at one moment and a bombing the next? How would anyone get access to Kim Jong-un, a man perpetually surrounded by squads of protectors and whose movements are secret?

Journalists who go to Pyongyang have cell-phones taken off them whenever they go to events where he might be, presumably to prevent tracking - so how would an ordinary citizen get more access?

Plots to kill Kim Jong-un may have been hatched but a bald statement by the media controlled by a vicious regime does not add up to convincing evidence.

'Human scum'

The ministry of state security statement, carried by state news agency KCNA, said the CIA and South Korean intelligence services had "hatched a vicious plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK".

It did not mention Kim Jong-un by name, but he is widely referred to as the supreme leader.

Image caption,
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun was named as a possible attack site

The ministry said a plot had been hatched to use "bomb terrorism" to target the supreme leadership at a military parade or at an event at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung, the country's founding leader.

It said "Kim" had been told that the best method was the use of "biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance" whose results would "appear after six or 12 months".

Killing Kim? How the 'plot' unfolded

June 2014: A North Korean working at a timber firm in the Khabarovsk territory of far-eastern Russia is "corrupted and bribed" by CIA and South Korean intelligence agents. The man - "Kim" - is given cash and a "satellite transmitter-receiver" and returns to Pyongyang

January, May, August, September 2016: "Kim" is in satellite contact with South Korean agents on handling biochemical agents and on the possible sites of an assassination attempt

March and April 2017: "Kim" meets a South Korean agent in the city of Dandong in China and is given a new transmitter and more cash. Further communications take place in April. The last date that appears in the North Korean statement is "early May", when "Kim" is supposed to receive "necessary equipment" via a "liaison centre" he has set up with his funding. No details are given on "Kim's" apprehension or fate

Source: Ministry of state security statement via KCNA

"Only the CIA can produce such substance", it said, adding that South Korea had borne the funding.

The ministry alleged that the North Korean man had been "turned" by the CIA and the South Korean intelligence service while working in Russia in 2014.

The ministry refers to two payments to "Kim" of $20,000 (£15,500) and a further two of $100,000 for "bribery" and obtaining equipment. It refers to another of $50,000 but it is unclear if this is additional.

On his return to Pyongyang, it says, he was instructed to provide detailed information about a frequently used event ground and to assess possible methods of attack.

The ministry statement gave no details of how the alleged plan had been uncovered or about the fate of "Kim", whom it described as "human scum".

The ministry said the "intelligence and plot-breeding organisations of the US imperialists and the puppet clique", referring to the South, would be swept away.

Earlier this year, Kim Jong-un's half brother, Kim Jong-nam, was killed with the banned nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur international airport. South Korea and Malaysia say it was an assassination carried out by the North.

'Major, major conflict'

A war of words between the West and nuclear-armed North Korea has escalated in recent weeks, with Pyongyang threatening to carry out a sixth nuclear test.

Media caption,

"US should remove North Korean leadership" - that was Republican Governor John Kasich's message to the BBC in April

On Saturday, North Korea conducted its second failed ballistic missile test in two weeks.

The US has sent a warship to the region and installed a controversial anti-missile defence system in South Korea.

President Trump has warned of "major, major conflict" with North Korea.

But he also said this week he would be willing to meet Kim Jong-un, in the right circumstances. The White House quickly clarified that conditions were "clearly not there right now" and said the North should "end its provocative behaviour immediately".