Kim received guidance on nuclear development

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Kim received guidance on nuclear development

North Korea formed a seven-member special committee in charge of developing and producing its nuclear arsenal, chaired by supreme leader Kim Jong-un, said a South Korean government source who specializes in North Korea.

According to an internal government document obtained exclusively by the JoongAng Ilbo, the seven-member committee, the name of which can roughly be translated as the Military First Revolutionary Committee, has led the North’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, with Kim Jong-un at the lead.

The other six members are Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong; Workers’ Party secretary Choi Ryong-hae; Ri Yong-gil, chief of the North Korean army’s general staff; Kim Sul-song, Kim Jong-un’s older sister by a different mother; Pak To-chun, secretary of the Workers’ Party in charge of the military and machine-building industries; and Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-un’s aunt.

The seven-member committee could be likened to South Korea’s National Security Council run by the Blue House, which convenes to make decisions on national security.

The intelligence bureau views the special revolutionary committee as the highest decision-making body for the North’s long-range missile and nuclear development projects, giving guidance to Kim Jong-un on setting the dates for nuclear detonations and long-range missile launches, the source said.

According to the government’s assessment from the internal document, Kim Jong-un differs from his father in making decisions in that he delivers judgments after consultation with a committee, while Kim Jong-il was known to have made decisions rather unilaterally. The junior Kim succeeded the throne upon his father’s death in December 2011.

After the North’s fourth nuclear test on Wednesday, which the North claimed was a hydrogen bomb test though many experts have refuted this due to lack of evidence, the Communist country released a photo of Kim signing an order for the test to go ahead, writing that the central party approves of the test. The disclosure of such a photo is seen as evidence of Kim following procedural steps.

The intelligence community assesses that Kim created the special body after the North’s third nuclear test in February 2013, after which he was thought to have felt a need to streamline the decision-making process. On the membership of Kim Kyong-hui, Kim’s aunt who has not been seen in public since the execution of her husband, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013, the source said there might have been some reshuffling in membership since the incident.

Pak To-chun is also believed to have been removed from his position, since he has not been seen accompanying Kim Jong-un in pubic, which also must have led to a membership change on the committee.

The South Korean government also discovered that there is a group called the Nuclear Safety Management Body, which officials understand to be carrying out decisions made by the seven-member committee led by Kim Jong-un. Kim Won-hong, the state security minister; Ri Yong-gil, chief of the military general staff; and Kim Yong-chol, chief of the North’s General Bureau of Reconnaissance, are among the members of this group, according to the government document.

BY LEE YONG-JONG [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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