North Korea carried out a purge of its top officials, holding them responsible for the collapse of the second United States-North Korea summit, reported South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, according to Reuters.
The summit, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, was cut short and failed to produce a joint agreement.
U.S. President Donald Trump had rejected Kim's offer to shut down Yongbyon -- a key nuclear facility -- in return for sanctions to be "lifted in their entirety".
However, Trump also blamed the collapse of the talks on the fact that his former lawyer Michael Cohen was questioned during an open hearing on the same day as the summit.
For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the “walk.” Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2019
Despite it being hyped by North Korean state media, with possible sanctions relief to help alleviate North Korea's economic woes, Kim ultimately returned home with nothing to show for the trip.
Since the breakdown of the summit, nuclear talks have also stalled.
Senior officials reportedly executed
The officials who were reportedly executed include North Korea's special envoy to the U.S., Kim Hyok-chol.
Kim, who acted as a negotiations counterpart to the U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, was charged with spying for the U.S.
Chosun Ilbo, quoting an unnamed North Korean source, said he was investigated and executed at Mirim Airport in March, along with four foreign ministry officials who carried out working-level negotiations for the Hanoi summit in February.
Lee Seong-hyon, a researcher at the South Korea-based think tank Sejong Instite, told the Financial Times that 'bloodshed' of this sort is very normal under Kim's rule.
The purging was also said to be carried out by Kim Jong-un to divert attention from growing discontent in the totalitarian state.
Sent to prison camp
Kim Yong-chol, Kim Jong-un's right-hand man and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's counterpart in the lead-up to the Hanoi summit, was sentenced to forced labour in Jagang Province, a remote northern province, Chosun Ilbo reported.
He was also subjected to ideological education.
Kim Song-hye, a senior female nuclear negotiator who worked with Kim Hyok-chol, was also reportedly sent to a political prison camp.
And Shin Hye-yong, the translator at the Hanoi summit was also reportedly sent to a prison camp for undermining Kim Jong-un's authority by making a critical translation mistake.
Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, who assisted him in Hanoi, was also told to lie low, according to an unnamed South Korean official quoted in Chosun Ilbo.
'Traitors' shall not avoid judgment
South Korean analysts have speculated in recent weeks that Kim may be planning a reshuffle or a purge of his negotiating team following the Hanoi summit.
Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, published a commentary on Thursday that warned against "traitors" who only "memorise words of loyalty towards the Leader", but change according to "the trend of time".
The commentary said:
"Pretending like one is working for the Leader in his presence, but secretly dreaming of something else behind his back, is an anti-Party, anti-revolutionary act that has thrown away the moral fidelity towards the Leader, and such characters will not avoid the stern judgment of the revolution."
Chosun Ilbo said this is the first time since the 2013 execution of Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song-thaek, that terms such as "anti-party" and "stern judgment" appeared in Rodong Sinmun.
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