North Korea has deployed tanks and other weapons around its leader Kim Jong-il’s residences in Pyongyang to fortify them against a possible revolt spurred by the ongoing antigovernment protests in the Middle East, a Seoul source said Sunday.
During a closed-door meeting with lawmakers Friday, a senior official of the National Intelligence Service confirmed reports of such activity, according to a lawmaker who sits on the parliamentary intelligence committee.
“In response to a question asking for confirmation of reports that ever since the collapse of the Mubarak regime (in Egypt), Kim Jong-il has placed tanks and many other weapons around his residences for fear of a similar situation, (the intelligence official) said that that is how he knows it,” the lawmaker said.
The 69-year-old North Korean leader is known to own four residences in Pyongyang alone.
Asked whether the pro-democracy rebellions in the Middle East are having any effect on North Korea, the NIS official said they have had “practically none,” according to the lawmaker.
The NIS official, however, did say that the Pyongyang regime was tightening its grip on North Korean Embassy staff returning from abroad for fear that they would spread news of the Middle Eastern crisis to others around them, the lawmaker said.
Citing lawmakers on the committee, a local daily said Saturday the NIS also reported Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader’s youngest son and heir apparent, had been asked to visit China.
The invitation was extended when Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu visited Pyongyang in December and last month, respectively.
“We can’t say exactly when, but Kim Jong-un will certainly visit Beijing as he has received an official invitation,” the NIS was quoted as telling the parliamentary committee.
“But it remains unclear whether Kim Jong-un will visit China alone or simply accompany the leader.”
The two allies share an interest in pursuing Kim Jong-un’s visit to Beijing as China is seeking to undermine U.S. influence over Asia while North Korea wants to solidify its hereditary succession program, the NIS said.
The spy agency has a policy of neither confirming nor denying reports it makes to the National Assembly.
When he visited Pyongyang last month, Meng expressed support for Kim Jong-il’s plan to transfer power eventually to his son, the North’s official news agency said.
Meng hailed “the successful solution of the issue of succession to the Korean revolution,” the Korean Central News Agency said in an unusually direct reference to the question of who will take over from the ailing autocrat.
Earlier on Friday, NIS chief Won Sei-Hoon was quoted as telling the same committee that North Korea has stepped up its campaign to block news on the Arab world’s unrest for fear of disturbances among its own people.
But Selig S. Harrison, a North Korea expert and director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy, said there were few parallels between North Korea and the Arab world.
North Korea is ethnically homogeneous and strongly united by a nationalist heritage, he said, adding it was this ethnic homogeneity and national ethos that have given the regime its staying power despite the ravages of famine and economic hardship.
These are precisely what the ruling oligarchs of the Arab world have lacked, Harrison wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
(From news reports)