The execution of Jan Song Thaek, who was considered the second most powerful man in the secretive country, showed why the world must make a united stand against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Kerry said in the interview taped for Sunday broadcast on ABC’s This Week program.
North Korean state media on Friday reported the execution of Jang. North Korea said earlier it had stripped Jang of his power and positions and accused him of criminal acts including mismanagement of the state financial system, womanizing and alcohol abuse.
North Korean politics are virtually impenetrable from outside and Jang also could easily have been purged over a falling out with Kim, or other personal reasons.
“It tells us a lot about, first of all, how ruthless and reckless he is,” Kerry said of Kim in the ABC interview. “And it also tells us a lot about how insecure he is, to a certain degree.
“The insights that we have tell us that he is spontaneous, erratic, still worried about his place in the power structure, and maneuvering to eliminate any potential kind of adversary or competitor and does so obviously ruthlessly.”
The top U.S. diplomat, in some of the most detailed remarks of a U.S. official since the news on Friday, said the execution was not the first under Kim’s rule and pointed to the urgency of addressing the North Korean nuclear state.
“It tells us a significant amount about the instability internally of the regime, with the numbers of executions,” Kerry said. “It’s an ominous sign of the instability and of the danger that does exist.”
The young Kim, believed to be about 30, has carried out two long-range missile tests and a nuclear weapons test in defiance of U.N. sanctions since he took control two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.
The Obama administration is working with China, the closest thing Pyongyang has to an ally, in seeking help to prevent any internal upheaval in North Korea from destabilizing the Korean peninsula, U.S. officials say.
Kerry, in the interview, said the nature of “this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship” and Kim’s insecurities raised the stakes for China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to “stay on the same page” and push ahead on denuclearization.
“To have a nuclear weapon potentially in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong Un just becomes even more unacceptable,” Kerry told ABC.
Below is t part of the transcript of Martha Raddatz’s exclusive interview with Secretary John Kerry for ABC’s “This Week,” conducted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam that relates to North Korea .
MARTHA RADDATZ: Mr. Secretary, I want to get right to reports out of North Korea that the young leader, Kim Jong Un, has executed his uncle, his mentor, one of the most powerful people in North Korea.
What does this tell you about the danger coming from North Korea?
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it tells us a lot about, first of all, how ruthless and reckless he is. And it also tells us a lot about how insecure he is, to a certain degree.
It tells us a significant amount about the instability, internally, of the regime, with the numbers of executions. This is not the first execution. There have been a significant number of executions taking place over the last months which we’re aware of.
And most importantly, it underscores the importance for all of us of, uh, finding a way forward with North Korea in order to denuclearize the peninsula. We’ve made progress with China. China is critical to any successful outcome with respect to denuclearizing North Korea. And we are now doing a more cooperative approach to, uh, to the peninsula.
But it’s a — it’s very — it’s an ominous sign of the instability and of the danger that does exist.
RADDATZ: What — what does it tell you about him?
We know so little about him.
Do we know any more about him?
KERRY: Well, we don’t know. I mean North Korea remains relatively opaque. It is not easy. But we do have insights. And the insights that we have tell us that he is a, you know, spontaneous, erratic, uh, still worried about his place in the power structure and maneuvering to eliminate any potential kind of a adversary or competitor and does so, obviously, ruthlessly.
I mean you — you saw the pictures of his uncle being arrested in front of everybody at this…
RADDATZ: And this was so public.
KERRY: — meeting. I mean it really reminded me of — of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience and people sitting there sweating and nobody daring to move or do anything.
Um, this is the nature of this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship and of his insecurities. And — and I think we — we need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, all of us, uh, to stay on the same page and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible. To have a nuclear weapon, potentially, in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong In — Jun — just becomes even more unacceptable.