A CIA Plot to Kill Kim? It Would Not Be the First Time the US Has Plotted the Death of a World Leader
May 7, 2017
North Korea has accused the CIA of attempting to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong-un, using unspecified biochemical substances. Since 1945, the CIA has succeeded in deposing or killing a string of foreign leaders, but was forced to cut back after a Senate investigation revealed its illegal covert acts in the 1970s. The CIA and South Korean intelligence have refused to comment on the accusation.
North Korea: CIA Has Biochemical Plot to Kill Kim Jong Un
Ewen MacAskill and Justin McCurry / The Guardian
LONDON and OSAKA (May 5, 2017) -- North Korea has accused the CIA of attempting to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong-un, using unspecified biochemical substances during a public ceremonial event in the capital, Pyongyang.
The ministry of state security issued a statement claiming the US intelligence agency had bribed a North Korean citizen, named only as Kim, to carry out the plot. It said possible locations for the killing included the mausoleum where Kim Jong-un's father and grandfather -- the country's founder -- lie in state, or a military parade.
The accusation comes amid rising tensions over North Korea's rogue nuclear program, with Pyongyang issuing increasingly belligerent rhetoric in a tense standoff with the Trump administration.
Like other North Korean claims, the allegation that the CIA plotted to assassinate Kim is impossible to verify. Media reports about the regime are tightly controlled by the state's propaganda machinery and often designed merely to burnish the leader's reputation. A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment.
Frequent references to the presence of a hostile force bent on assassinating the North Korean leadership, and threatening the country's very existence, are a time-honoured tactic designed to shore up public support at home.
While the CIA's long history of attempting covert assassinations of political leaders across the world is notorious, the intelligence agency was forced to cut back on such operations after a Senate inquiry in the 1970s exposed the scale of the assassinations and concluded the policy was counter-productive. [See related story below -- EAW.]
The North Korean ministry's statement said: "The heinous crime, which was recently uncovered and smashed in the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], is a kind of terrorism against not only the DPRK but the justice and conscience of humankind and an act of mangling the future of humankind."
It added that "assassination by use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance is the best method that does not require access to the target".
Kim, the alleged hitman, was described as "human scum" who had received payments totalling at least $740,000 and was given satellite transceivers and other materials and equipment, according to the ministry.
He had multiple contacts with South Korean intelligence personnel, and an accomplice who had a Chinese-sounding name, Xu Guanghai of the Qingdao Nazca Trade Co.
No details were given in the ministry statement of how the supposed plot was uncovered, or of Kim's fate. But in a potential sign of an internal purge, it said the ministry would "ferret out and mercilessly destroy the terrorists".
There have been a number of reported assassination attempts on Kim and his late father, but western analysts and intelligence officials attributed most of them to homegrown plots inspired by disaffected military and other officials.
Against the present tension, Pyongyang may have decided it is politically more convenient to blame Washington than admit it was a purely internal plot.
In spite of cutting back on assassinations, the US has continued to engage in what it refers to as targeted killings and has mounted attacks since the 1970s on leaders such as the late Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi and the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
It has much more sophisticated weapons than snipers or the exploding cigars sent to the late Cuban president Fidel Castro. The digital age has increased the number of options for killing covertly. A CIA document released by WikiLeaks earlier this year showed the agency looking at ways of hacking into car operating systems.
The mythology in North Korea surrounding the Kim dynasty centres on the country's economic, political and military superiority over South Korea and its allies in the west.
Claiming it had foiled the assassination attempt will only add to that air of invincibility, however demonstrably false it appears to the outside world.
In addition, in recent weeks Pyongyang has portrayed the US as the aggressor to justify its quest to develop long-range ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.
Issuing such a dramatic claim just days before the South Korean presidential election could be seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, days after the deployment of a controversial US missile defence system in the South Korean countryside.
Moon-Jae-in, the liberal former human rights lawyer who is widely expected to win the 9 May poll, has vowed to review the anti-missile deployment. Last week, Moon's foreign policy adviser told the Guardian he would work with the Trump White House, but made clear he was open to unconditional talks with Pyongyang -- a policy opposed by successive US administrations.
There is also an element of mischief about assertion that "chemical substances" were involved in the assassination plot: the murder in February of Kim's estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur airport involved the highly toxic VX nerve agent, and allegedly involved North Korean agents.
The CIA Has a Long History of
Helping to Kill Leaders around the World
Ewen MacAskill / The Guardian
LONDON (May 5, 2017) -- Some of the most notorious of the CIA's operations to kill world leaders were those targeting the late Cuban president, Fidel Castro. Attempts ranged from snipers to imaginative plots worthy of spy movie fantasies, such as the famous exploding cigars and a poison-lined scuba-diving suit.
But although the CIA attempts proved fruitless in the case of Castro, the US intelligence agency has since 1945 succeeded in deposing or killing a string of leaders elsewhere around the world -- either directly or, more often, using sympathetic local military, locally hired criminals or pliant dissidents.
According to North Korea's ministry of state security, the CIA has not abandoned its old ways. In a statement on Friday, it accused that the CIA and South Korea's intelligence service of being behind an alleged recent an assassination attempt on its leader Kim Jong-un.
The attempt, according to the ministry, involved "the use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance" and the advantage of this was it "does not require access to the target (as) their lethal results will appear after six or 12 months".
The person directly responsible was allegedly a North Korean working for the foreign intelligence agencies.
A CIA spokesman refused to comment on the allegations.
But although such a claim cannot be dismissed as totally outlandish -- given the long list of US involvement in coups and assassinations worldwide -- the agency was forced to cut back on such killings after a US Senate investigation in the 1970s exposed the scale of its operations.
Following the investigation, then president Gerald Ford signed in 1976 an executive order stating: "No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire in, political assassination."
The executive order was partly out of embarrassment at the role of the CIA being publicly exposed -- but also an acceptance by the federal government that US-inspired coups and assassinations often turned out to be counterproductive.
In spite of this, the US never totally abandoned the strategy, simply changing the terminology from assassination to targeted killings, from aerial bombing of presidents to drone attacks on alleged terrorist leaders. Aerial bomb attempts on leaders included Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in 1986, Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic in 1999 and Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Earlier well-documented episodes include Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, judged by the US to be too close to close to Russia. In 1960, the CIA sent a scientist to kill him with a lethal virus, though this became unnecessary when he was removed from office in 1960 by other means.
Other leaders targeted for assassination in the 1960s included the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, president Sukarno of Indonesia and president Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam.
In 1973, the CIA helped organise the overthrow of Chile's president, Salvador Allende, deemed to be too left wing: he died on the day of the coup.
The alleged North Korean plot sounds crude. But intelligence agencies still resort to crude methods. The alleged North Korean plot recalls the assassination of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. A British inquest concluded he had been killed by the Russian intelligence agency using polonium hidden in a teapot.
The US has developed much more sophisticated methods than polonium in a tea pot, especially in the fields of electronic and cyber warfare. A leaked document obtained by WikiLeaks and released earlier this year showed the CIA in October 2014 looking at hacking into car control systems. That ability could potentially allow an agent to stage a car crash.
Recent failed North Korean missile attempts -- as well as major setbacks in Iran's nuclear programme -- have been blamed on direct or indirect planting of viruses in their computer systems.
It is a long way from the crude, albeit imaginative and eventually doomed, methods employed against Castro. The US admitted to eight assassination attempts on Castro, though the Cuban put the figure much higher, with one estimate in the hundreds. Castro said: "If surviving assassinations were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal."
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