North Korea Increasing Executions As Sanctions Strain Its Military, Top U.S. General Says
North Korea is increasing executions, the top commander of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula said Monday, as the rogue state has been decreasing military exercises under strain from economic sanctions.
“We’re seeing some increase in executions, mostly against political officers who are in military units, for corruption,” General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, told The Wall Street Journal. Brooks described the executions as attempts to “clamp down as much as possible on something that might be deteriorating and keeping it from deteriorating too quickly.”
Brooks said there have also been defections occurring “in areas where we don’t generally see them,” such as crossings through the heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone separating the North and South.
North Korean soldiers look at the South side while U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo visit at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone. Jung Yeon-Je/Getty ImagesPhoto by: Jung Yeon-Je/Getty Images
Meanwhile, North Korea has been dialing down its military exercises as harsh sanctions leveled against it by the international community strain its resources, according to U.S. officials. The reclusive nation’s military typically conducts winter exercises from December to March, but they’ve been scaled down this year. The U.N. has placed major restrictions on imports of oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea and the reduction in military activities could be an effort to conserve fuel. But this does not necessarily suggest North Korea’s military capabilities have been significantly weakened, military analysts told the Journal.
There’s significant evidence North Korea has attempted to sidestep the economic sanctions with covert trade, in some cases with the help of China. Beijing has maintained its innocence in this regard.
North Korea conducted a slew of missile tests in 2017 as part of its broader effort to develop a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland U.S., which led U.N. to respond with sanctions. In the new year, Kim Jong Un’s regime has somewhat changed its disposition, opening up dialogue with South Korea for the first time in roughly two years. As a result, North Korea is set to participate in next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Despite these developments, Pyongyang continues refusing to step away from its nuclear ambitions.