Kim Yong Chol’s demotion would be very good news for America – Washington Examiner
Reports from a South Korean newspaper suggests that two of Kim Jong Un’s top officials have been purged from his regime. If true, this would be welcome news for U.S. diplomacy.
Chosun Ilbo reports that North Korea has executed a lead negotiator responsible for discussions with the U.S., has sent Kim Yong Chol to a labor camp, and has told Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong to “lie low.” It also asserts that a North Korean propaganda outlet, Rodong Sinmun, recently editorialized against traitors.
The U.S. State Department says it is investigating. But again, if this report is true, the first reaction should be one of guarded optimism for the U.S. After all, if Kim Yong Chol has been purged from the highest echelons of the regime, it would mean the departure of a key hardliner who had the North Korean leader’s ear.
And there should be very little doubt that Kim Yong Chol is an archon of North Korean regime hardliners. Pushing his young boss to play for time and sanctions relief, Kim Yong Chol is an obstruction to President Trump’s grand bargain. And up until this news, it was increasingly clear that the North Korean leader was holding to his adviser’s bent. If, however, Kim Yong Chol has been sent away to the gulags, it comes at a crucial time. Kim Jong Un has repeatedly struck out those around him to consolidate his personal power at the heart of North Korean governance. Yet regime pressures in North Korea are now defined by the upcoming food crisis. If Kim cannot address that food crisis, either by an amelioration of U.S. sanctions under diplomacy, or via extorting the U.S., he is likely to launch new long range ballistic missile tests. Kim Yong Chol almost certainly would have advised a harder rather than softer line against America.
This flows into why I believe President Trump walked away from Kim Yong Un at the two leaders’ most recent summit in Hanoi this February. Trump believes, with good reason, that Kim has not yet made up his mind as to whether to pursue a compromise. So if only for a moment, and if only contingent on Chosun Ilbo’s report, this is good news.