Last week, North Korea made a fairly sensational allegation: that in 2014, the CIA and South Korea's National Intelligence Service conspired to assassinate Kim Jong Un with a biochemical weapon.
In vivid detail, the North Korean Ministry of State Security described how U.S. and South Korean officials “ideologically corrupted and bribed” a North Korean citizen working in Russia. The plan was as follows: The alleged agent would return home to North Korea, wait for a public event, then use some kind of poisonous substance on top regime officials. Pyongyang suggested that South Korean agents provided satellite communication equipment and money to this alleged would-be killer. The United States, according to this account, provided a biochemical substance — a delayed-action radioactive or “nano poisonous” gas.
North Korea did not offer any evidence or specifics on how the alleged plot was foiled. The suspect was identified only by his last name — Kim, which is a fairly common last name on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean officials called the claim “groundless.” The CIA declined to comment, as is customary.
But North Korea isn't letting it go. Last week, it said the United States and South Korea should “execute” those involved in the purported plot. On Thursday, it demanded that the United States and South Korea hand over the “terror suspects.”
“The Central Prosecutor's Office will ask for the handover of those criminals and prosecute them under the relevant laws,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol told foreign diplomats and reporters in Pyongyang, according to China's Xinhua News Agency.
No details were included about who the suspects are and how many are on the run.
Without this information, it's hard to evaluate Pyongyang's allegations — or even take them very seriously. But it's worth noting that North Korea has a long history of its own ripped-from-a-bad-movie assassination plots. Or, as the Associated Press put it, “In the paranoid universe of North Korea, the feverish accusations it makes against its sworn enemies bear a creepy resemblance to its own misdeeds.”
There was, for example, the 1968 attempt to kill South Korea's president. North Korea sent a 31-person commando team over the border to execute a siege on the leader's residence. The team was discovered by some teenage brothers and never completed the mission.
In 1983, North Korean agents detonated a powerful bomb by remote control during a wreath-laying ceremony attended by a visiting South Korean presidential delegation in Rangoon, Burma. South Korea's then-president, Chun Doo-hwan, escaped unharmed, but the blast killed 21 other people — including 17 South Koreans, four of them cabinet ministers.
In 1997, a member of Kim Jong Un's extended family who defected was fatally shot on a South Korean street by assailants from the North.
In 2009, Pyongyang allegedly paid about $40,000 to have dissident Hwang Jang-yop, secretary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party until he defected in 1997, killed. The attempt was unsuccessful.
In 2011, a defector to South Korea suspected of being a North Korean secret agent was arrested on suspicion of attempting to assassinate Park Sang-Hak, an outspoken critic of the Pyongyang regime. South Korean authorities said the suspected agent had set up a meeting with Park in a subway station in Seoul and planned to kill him with a poison pen.
And, most recently, the North Korean regime has been widely blamed for the death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged older half brother of Kim Jong Un. Malaysian authorities said he was attacked by two women at the Kuala Lumpur airport; one grabbed him and the other covered his face with a cloth doused in a liquid, which Malaysian investigators later identified as VX nerve agent, a banned chemical weapon.
He died on the way to the hospital.