Kim Jong-un Mutters Dark Threats

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a meeting with a new panel of top security officials and diplomats pledged "substantial and high-profile state measures," apparently in response to fresh UN sanctions.

The official KCNA news agency on Sunday quoted Kim as uttering the obscure threat "in view of the prevailing situation," which is being read as a reference to the latest UN Security Resolution condemning the North's rocket launch and intensifying sanctions.

Kim also echoed more irate statements last week from various arms of the regime, saying the North "must defend its sovereignty by itself" while there "can be no denuclearization of the Korean peninsula before the world has been denuclearized," KCNA reported.

Immediately after the UN resolution, the North's Foreign Ministry vowed to boost its arsenal, while the National Defense Commission threatened a "high-level" nuclear test.

The committee of security officials and diplomats seems to be a new setup and has sparked some speculation among pundits here. KCNA only said the meeting took place "recently."

"It looks like North Korea formed a taskforce of sorts copying the U.S.' National Security Council," said a Unification Ministry official here. "Perhaps the plan is to demonstrate how serious the situation has become due to the UN Security Council sanctions." North Korea watchers also note that the KCNA report came out at the unusual time of 2 a.m., which is noon in the U.S.

The committee is a mixed bag, including top military brass like new army chief Hyon Yong-chol and the army's top ideologue Choe Ryong-hae, Minister for State Security Kim Won-hong, Pak To-chun, the man overseeing nuclear arms development, party bigwigs Kim Yong-il and Hong Sung-mu who deal with foreign policy, and Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, a comparative moderate and long the point man in negotiations with the U.S.

The hardline officials in charge of propaganda and surveillance against the South were absent, suggesting to some pundits that the regime is not yet willing to burn its bridges with South Korea's incoming Park Geun-hye administration.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) meets with a panel of top security officials and diplomats, in this picture released Sunday by the [North] Korean Central News Agency. /KCNA-Yonhap North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) meets with a panel of top security officials and diplomats, in this picture released Sunday by the [North] Korean Central News Agency. /KCNA-Yonhap

Meanwhile, a Chinese North Korea expert reflected Beijing's growing impatience with North Korea's grandstanding and predicted that Beijing could use its growing diplomatic clout to "widen its strategic sphere" and meet that challenge. Ding Gang, writing in the English-language Global Times, warned that anyone who tries to put China in a tight spot will live to regret it.

Ding said a nuclear arsenal would not only fail to bring security to North Korea but go directly against China's national interests. He added North Korea faces no threat from outside its borders and the best way to ensuring its security is economic development.

Meanwhile, a Chinese North Korea expert reflected Beijing's growing impatience with North Korea's grandstanding and predicted that Beijing could use its growing diplomatic clout to "widen its strategic sphere" and meet that challenge. Ding Gang, writing in the English-language Global Times, warned that anyone who tries to put China in a tight spot will live to regret it.

Ding said a nuclear arsenal would not only fail to bring security to North Korea but go directly against China's national interests. He added North Korea faces no threat from outside its borders and the best way to ensuring its security is economic development.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 28, 2013 09:57 KST