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Former US CIA Chief Sees Assassination of Kim Jong Nam as Strategic Move

Kim Jong Nam, 45, died February 13 after allegedly being poisoned by two women at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport

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FILE - Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 17, 2004, to discuss proposed reorganization of the intelligence community.

The motive for the assassination of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be an attempt to forestall any outside effort to install an alternative to the current leader, a former CIA acting director told VOA this week.

Kim Jong Nam, 45, died February 13 after allegedly being poisoned by two women at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The women smeared the VX nerve agent on Kim’s face, according to Malaysian police.

VX is a substance listed as a banned chemical weapon under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

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Kuala Lumpur police have arrested the women and one North Korean national, and are seeking seven other North Koreans, including a diplomat based in Kuala Lumpur, for questioning. While the police have not determined if Pyongyang was behind the assassination, Seoul accused the North Korean leader of ordering the killing of his half brother.

FILE - Kim Jong Nam, exiled half brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, gestures toward his face while talking to airport security and officials at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, in this image made Feb. 13, 2017, from Kuala Lumpur airport security cameras.
FILE – Kim Jong Nam, exiled half brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, gestures toward his face while talking to airport security and officials at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, in this image made Feb. 13, 2017, from Kuala Lumpur airport security cameras. VOA

In an interview with VOA, John McLaughlin, who served as acting director of Central Intelligence from July to September 2004 and as the deputy director of Central Intelligence from 2000 to 2004 under President George W. Bush, said North Korea is a likely perpetrator in Kim Jong Nam’s death, given the poison used to kill him.

“It’s very hard for someone not connected to a state entity to obtain the kind of poison that was apparently used,” the former CIA official said.

Potential threat to power

Once deemed heir apparent to his late father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled the country from 1994 to 2011, Kim Jong Nam lived in a de facto exile after falling out of favor with him. When asked what might have motivated the regime to order the killing, McLaughlin said: “The North Korean leadership wanted to make sure there is not an alternative readily available for Kim Jong Un.”

“They particularly would want to make sure that China would not have someone handy that they could install in the event Kim Jong Un was removed or fell from power,” said McLaughlin, who is now with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Although the incident has sparked widespread speculation about the stability of the North Korean regime, McLaughlin cautioned against drawing conclusions. However, he said a series of executions carried out by Kim Jong Un could indicate his power might be insecure.

“The pattern of purging is deep enough to suggest that he is still not totally secure in power,” he said.

Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong (second from right) is escorted by police officers from court in Sepang, Malaysia, March 1, 2017. Two young women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader, were charged with murder.
Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong (second from right) is escorted by police officers from court in Sepang, Malaysia, March 1, 2017. Two young women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader, were charged with murder. VOA

Alarming event

The assassination drew the world’s attention because it took place at one of the busiest airports in Asia, prompting news media to speculate on why such a public venue was chosen.

McLaughlin, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, said the perpetrator might have thought the airport was the place where the victim was “most vulnerable.”

“It was probably seen as a place where what they were doing would be less easily noticed just from the general turmoil of the airport,” he said.

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According to McLaughlin, the incident in Malaysia is an “alarming event” because the banned chemical was used in a public place to kill someone.

“It means that this very unstable regime has a very powerful weapon and was reckless enough to use it in a crowd of people,” he said.

Possible repercussions

China is widely believed to have favored Kim Jong Nam for a leadership position in Pyongyang. The assassination puts Beijing in a difficult position, McLaughlin said.

“I think China faces a bit of dilemma here,” he said. “They don’t want major changes in the [Korean] peninsula, but they also recognize [Kim Jong Un] brings a degree of unpredictability that could shape things in a direction that they would have trouble managing.”

McLaughlin said the United States should relist North Korea as a state of sponsor of terrorism if the communist state is found responsible for the apparent assassination.

The U.S. designated the North as a state of sponsor of terrorism after the country bombed a South Korean airliner in 1987, killing 115 passengers and crew on board. In 2008, the U.S. removed the North from the list as part of a nuclear deal, in which Pyongyang agreed to disable its plutonium plant and allow some inspections.

Following Kim’s death in Kuala Lumpur, some U.S. lawmakers are calling on the Trump administration to repeal the decision.(VOA)

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Iran Accuses CIA for spreading ‘Fake News’ about Tehran’s support to Al Qaeda

The document, part of nearly 47,000 documents released by the CIA, quoted the group's slain leader Osama bin Laden as saying: "Anyone who wants to strike America, Iran is ready to support him and help him with their frank and clear rhetoric."

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Al Qaeda
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has posted a tweet after the release of a 19-page Al Qaeda report in Arabic, which claimed Iran supported the extremist group before the 9/11 attacks. VOA

Tehran, November 3, 2017 : Iran on Friday accused the CIA of spreading “fake news” about Tehrans support to the Al Qaeda, describing the claims as an attempt to “whitewash” the truth about the role US allies had in the September 11, 2001 attacks

“A record low for the reach of petrodollars: CIA & FDD fake news w/ selective Al Qaeda docs re: Iran can’t whitewash role of US allies in 9/11,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Friday.

Zarif posted the tweet after the release of a 19-page Al Qaeda report in Arabic, which claimed Iran supported the extremist group before the 9/11 attacks.

The document, part of nearly 47,000 documents released by the CIA, quoted the group’s slain leader Osama bin Laden as saying: “Anyone who wants to strike America, Iran is ready to support him and help him with their frank and clear rhetoric.”

It claimed that Iran and Al Qaeda could overlook their differences and join forces when it came to confronting the US.

The US government’s 9/11 Commission has made similar allegations, saying Iranian officials met Al Qaeda leaders in Sudan in either 1991 or early 1992.

Last year, a New York court ordered Iran to pay $7.5 billion in damages to the families of the 9/11 victims.

The release of the files comes as US President Donald Trump’s administration seeks to ramp up pressure on Iran, refusing to certify a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

The Fars news agency, which is close to Iranian conservatives, said on Thursday that the selective publication of documents by the CIA related to Al Qaeda was part of efforts “to put pressure on Iran”. (IANS)

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US, Japan, S. Korea Military Warns North Korea to stop Irresponsible Provocations

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General Joseph Dunford, left, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan. VOA

Hawaii, October 30: Senior defense officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan met to discuss the nuclear missile threats by North Korea.

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, hosted his counterparts – General Kyeong-doo Jeong of South Korea and Japanese Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano – at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii Sunday.

“Together they called upon North Korea to refrain from irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tensions, and to walk away from its destructive and reckless path of development,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office said in a statement.

The three leaders also discussed multilateral and trilateral initiatives to promote long-term peace and stability in northeast Asia and to improve interoperability and readiness on a number of issues including mutual security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and cyber warfare.

Monday South Korea’s foreign ministry announced that its representative to the six-party nuclear talks will meet with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing Tuesday to exchange analyses on the current North Korean situation.(VOA)

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John F. Kennedy’s Assassination : Trump Promises to Release all Documents

Trump said he is doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.

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President John F. Kennedy's hand
President John F. Kennedy's hand, visible through the foreground convertible's windshield, reaches toward his head within seconds of the firing of the fatal shot as first lady Jacqueline Kennedy holds his forearm, with the motorcade proceeding along Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. VOA

Washington, October 29, 2017 : US President Donald Trump has promised to publish all documents on John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to guarantee transparency and end any conspiracy theory on the event.

“After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other agencies, I will be releasing ALL JFK files other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living,” Trump said on his Twitter account, Efe news reported.

“I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”

Trump had on Thursday authorised the National Archives to release 2,891 previously unpublished documents on the historic landmark, but decided to retain some of them because of what official sources described as CIA and FBI pressures.

ALSO READ Trump Delays Release of Hundreds of John F Kennedy Assassination Files, Citing National Security

“I have no choice –today– but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security,” Trump said in a memo on Thursday.

However, Trump gave his agencies six months until April 26, 2018, to review the reasons for their decision to keep certain documents related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination hidden and to minimize censored extracts so that they could be published as soon as possible.

He was not satisfied with his agencies’ insistence on keeping some materials secret and decided to give them more time to review them with the idea of publishing more documents, although the White House has not given a clear timeline for the next release. (IANS)