Kim Yo-jong and Choe Ryong-hae Receive Promotions within the North’s Workers’ Party of Korea

Since Kim Jong-un has come to power Choe Ryong-hae has been his point man for handling various foreign visits such as with China, with Russia, and even attending the Rio Summer Olympics.  His loyalty has now been rewarded with a promotion:

Choe Ryong-hae

Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling party and known to be one of the closest aides to leader Kim Jong-un, has been picked as a member of the party’s powerful military commission, the North’s state-run media reported Sunday.

Choe, 67, was elected to the Central Military Commission of the North’s Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) during the second plenum of its seventh central committee Saturday in Pyongyang, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Choe is currently one of five standing committee members of WPK’s politburo — which also includes Kim Jong-un, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong-nam and Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of North Korea’s armed forces.

He was once believed to have fallen out of Kim’s favor and punished for mishandling a hydro power plant project in November 2015 but has apparently returned to the party leadership.

The KCNA added that Choe was also appointed a director at the party’s central committee without specifying which division or branch he would head. Saturday’s reshuffle raised the number of Choe’s official roles in the party to eight in total.  [Yonhap]

When Choe fell out of favor he was sent for reeducation at the Kim Il Sung Higher Party School.  South Korean intelligence predicted this was just a minor setback and he would make a political comeback which ended up being accurate.  So why is Choe Ryong-hae so important to Kim Jong-un?  There have been reports that his son is married to Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong.  If so having Choe as a regime inner circle figure makes sense because the inner circle is traditionally limited mostly to the Kim family.

Speaking of Kim Jong-un’s sister, she received a promotion as well:

Kim Yo-jong

In the reshuffle, conducted ahead of the founding anniversary of the party which falls on Oct. 10, Kim’s younger sister, Yo-jong, has also been elected as an alternate member of the WPK central committee’s Political Bureau, according to the report.

Yo-jong, 30, was first elected a member of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, in March 2014 and then a member of WPK’s central committee in May last year. She is believed to have been educated in Switzerland along with her brother Kim Jong-un.

All these promotions are showing is that Kim Jong-un is continuing to solidify has political power base with family members he trusts that will stay loyal to him.

PBS Frontline Airs “North Korea’s Deadly Dictator”

Over at the PBS Frontline website their latest program “North Korea’s Deadly Dictator” can be watched. The program focuses on the assassination of Kim Jong-nam and has a number of interviews with his friends that he went to school with in Europe.  Former North Korean diplomat turned defector Thae Yong-ho and ex-CIA analyst Su Mi Terry also features heavily in the program.

It appears the reason for the assassination was Kim Jong-nam’s criticism of Kim Jong-un combined with the fact that based on his friends’ testimony he planned to move to Switzerland and defect to the West.  For those that regularly read this site there is really nothing new in the program, however for those not familiar with the issue it is a great run down on who Kim Jong-nam was and why his half brother Kim Jong-un is doing the things he has done.

CIA Believes that Kim Jong-un is A Rational Actor

The CIA concurs with what I have been saying for a long time, that everything Kim Jong-un has been doing from his perspective make rational sense.  He has been playing a delicate balancing act of consolidating power internally while conducting provocations and developing his ICBM and nuclear weapons programs to deter external foes:

President Donald Trump has depicted the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “madman”—but U.S. intelligence officials do not agree.

According to Yong Suk Lee, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, the young North Korean ruler is actually a lot less erratic than he is often portrayed.

“Beyond the bluster, Kim Jong Un is a rational actor,” he said at a conference on the CIA at George Washington University on Wednesday, quoted by AFP.

Trump and Kim have reguarly traded insults but despite the latter’s threat to the American president last month, the North Korean ruler does not seek a military confrontation because he is more interested in ensuring his regime’s survival and stability.

“We have a tendency in this country and elsewhere to underestimate his conservatism” Lee said, adding “He wants to rule for a long time and die in his own bed.”  [Newsweek]

You can read more at the link.

Kim Jong-un Replies Directly to President Trump’s UN Speech By Calling Him A “Dotard”

Here is Kim Jong-un’s reaction to President Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly:

Famous for using bombastic, derogatory and often-awkward English slams against enemies, North Korean state media sent people scrambling for dictionaries Friday with a dispatch that quotes leader Kim Jong Un calling President Donald Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

The what?

Dotard means a person in a feeble or childish state due to old age. It’s a translation of a Korean word, “neukdari,” which is a derogatory reference to an old person.

It was used in an unusual direct statement from Kim that the Korean Central News Agency transmitted verbatim in response to Trump’s speech at the U.N. this week, in which he mocked Kim as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission,” and said that if the U.S. is “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”  [Associated Press]

You can read more at the link.  Here is what President Trump had to say via Twitter in response:

Wouldn’t it be great if Kim Jong-un got his own Twitter account and him and President Trump could just have a Twitter war instead of going back in forth in the media like this?

President Trump Calls Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man”

Kim Jong-un may actually like the nickname Donald Trump has come up for him:

The “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un.

Donald Trump has referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “rocket man” in a tweet about a conversation with the South Korean President.

The US leader tweeted that he had been speaking with Moon Jae-in about the situation with the secretive communist state, which has launched a series of ballistic missiles in recent weeks and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date.

“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night,” Mr Trump wrote. “Asked him how Rocket Man is doing.”

He added that long petrol lines has been forming in North Korea, which he said was “too bad”.  [The Independent]

You can read more at the link, but I doubt whatever long gas lines there are, are effecting anyone in the regime elite.

South Korea Forms “Spartan 3000” Brigade to Hunt Kim Jong-un If Ordered

I doubt Kim Jong-un is very concerned about this when he knows there is almost zero chance the ROK President is willing to execute such a preemptive strike.  This report seems more for domestic consumption to show the ROK public the government is “doing something”:

South Korea’s defense minister is publicly boasting that it will create a new “decapitation unit” called the Spartan 3000 with the express intent of taking out North Korean leadership, The New York Times reports.

The brigade-sized unit of between 2,000 and 4,000 soldiers will be established by year’s end, The Times reported the defense minister, Song Young-moo, as saying, adding that the military was already “retooling” helicopters and transporting planes to be able to penetrate North Korean airspace at night.

It’s out of the ordinary for a senior government leader to publicly say they are working on a plan to assassinate a foreign head of state. But there’s an interesting reason behind it: The South is trying to freak out its northern neighbor and get it to the negotiating table instead of further developing nuclear weapons.

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” retired South Korean Lt. Gen. Shin Won-sik told The Times.  [Business Insider]

You can read more at the link.