North Korean purge of leader’s uncle sparks stability fears

(BBC)The execution of the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has rekindled fears of instability in the secretive nuclear-armed state.

South Korean defence chief Kim Kawn-jin promised “heightened readiness” after the purge of Chang Song-thaek.

He said the execution could be seen as part of a “reign of terror” by the North Korean leader.

Mr Chang was executed for “acts of treachery” after appearing before a military trial.

He was dramatically removed from a special party session by armed guards earlier this week.

South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae warned that the purge could be followed by military moves from Pyongyang, including another nuclear test.

He told lawmakers that “the North usually curbs internal (agitation) through waging provocations externally”.

North Korea carried out its third third nuclear test in February, to widespread international condemnation.

As tensions rose, Pyongyang threatened attacks on Japanese, South Korean and US military targets in the region.

China, North Korea’s ally and neighbour, described Mr Chang’s execution as an “internal matter”.

“As a neighbouring country, we hope for North Korea to maintain stability…” a foreign ministry spokesman said.

However, the BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing says the bland statement is likely to mask deep concern and will raise questions as to how much influence China actually has over the state.

Victor Cha, a former senior White House adviser on Asia, warned that Kim Jong-Un’s purge could spread further than Mr Chang.

“If he has to go as high as purging and then executing Chang, it tells you that everything’s not normal,” he said.

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