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Kim Jong-un did not delegate power: Ex-US commander

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command from 2016-2018 (Yonhap)
Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command from 2016-2018 (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has not passed down his key posts and that means Kim has not delegated power, retired Gen. Vincent Brooks, who was commander of the 28,500-strong United States Forces Korea between 2016 and 2018, said in response to a South Korean intelligence analysis.

The National Intelligence Service told lawmakers on Aug. 20 that while Kim holds absolute power, he has delegated some of it to key aides including his sister Kim Yo-jong, who, the agency added, is the de facto No. 2, though not an officially designated successor to Kim Jong-un.

Brooks told Voice of America on Saturday that the North has seen changes in leadership roles -- for example, Kim Yo-jong’s elevated status. But rather than a sign of power sharing, he said, the shakeup instead signals aides loyal to the 36-year-old leader are taking on senior-level responsibilities.

The former commander said, however, that Kim Jong-un trusts no one completely, and he names aides to positions based on their loyalty.

Brooks also said he disagreed with a ruling party lawmaker’s recent comment that the United Nations Command in Korea was “illegitimate.” The command is in charge of Demilitarized Zone affairs between the two Koreas, which still remain technically at war without a formal peace treaty.

Ruling party Rep. Song Young-gil, who chairs the South Korean parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, said earlier that the command, led by an American general, was legally unsound and “illegitimate” in its founding so it should be kept in check to prevent it from interfering with inter-Korean affairs.

Brooks said the command has a long tradition going back decades and that without it, inter-Korean talks would not have followed.

The former commander added that it was appalling to see the devaluing of an organization backed by the United Nations, when South Korea gained legitimacy as a sovereign state upon UN recognition.

The UN Command was established by a resolution the UN Security Council passed two days after the Korean War broke out in June 1950. The Command -- comprising 16 UN member states under an American general -- was instrumental in countering invading North Korean forces, mainly backed by China.

United States Forces Korea was set up in 1978 and took over wartime operational control from the UN Command. The USFK chief leads the Combined Forces Command between Seoul and Washington.

By Choi Si-young (