U.K. Envoy to Pyongyang Discusses Schism in N.Korea

      April 02, 2014 09:48

      The execution of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek provided a glimpse of the factions that exist in the regime and how the regime responded to their conflict, the U.K. ambassador to Pyongyang said Tuesday.

      Michael Gifford

      "For the first time in many years, it has shown that the existence of factions -- or counter-revolutionary elements as the [North Korean] government called it -- within the regime," said Michael Gifford during a visit to Seoul.

      He was addressing group in the ruling Saenuri Party studying unification and the economy at the National Assembly.

      Jang's execution showed "the ruthless nature of the regime," said Gifford, who claims he mentioned this to North Korean officials and demanded the abolition of the death penalty.

      "We were and remain very strongly opposed to the use of the death penalty and particularly the way Jang Song-taek was executed very quickly after his trial."

      Gifford arrived in Seoul on Monday for discussions with the British Embassy in Seoul. He returns to Pyongyang via China on Wednesday.

      The regime has been taking a more hardline stance recently as regimes crumbled in Libya and Ukraine, Gifford said. But he pointed to the "resilience" of the North Korean regime and ruled out an imminent collapse.

      The regime has been toughened by food crises and the death of former leader Kim Jong-il, he added.

      Gifford suggested the North's massive artillery barrage on Monday aimed at the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas was a response to President Park Geun-hye's speech on peaceful reunification in Dresden, which the regime saw as a "threat."

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