North Korea says it will seek extradition of plot culprits

FILE - In this April 13, 2017 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, is accompanied by Pak Pong Ju, right, Hwang Pyong So, second left, as he arrives for the official opening of the Ryomyong residential area, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Pyongyang will seek the extradition of anyone involved in what it says was a CIA-backed plot to kill leader Kim Jung Un April, 2017, with a biochemical poison, a top North Korean foreign ministry official said Thursday, May 11, 2017.(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Pyongyang will seek the extradition of anyone involved in what it says was a CIA-backed plot to kill leader Kim Jung Un last month with a biochemical poison, a top North Korean foreign ministry official said Thursday.

Han Song Ryol, the vice foreign minister, called a meeting of foreign diplomats in Pyongyang to outline the North’s allegation that the CIA and South Korea’s intelligence agency bribed and coerced a North Korean man into joining in the assassination plot, which the North’s Ministry of State Security has suggested was thwarted last month.

North Korea’s U.N. Mission late Thursday issued a statement calling the purported plot to kill Kim a “declaration of war.”

It said the aim was to hurt “the mental mainstay that all the Korean people absolutely trust” and “eclipse the eternal sun” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

The North’s state media have been running stories about the plot since last week. The security ministry has vowed to “ferret out” anyone involved in the alleged plot, which it called “state-sponsored terrorism.”

The U.N. Mission said the Ministry of State Security has declared that a “Korean-style anti-terrorist offensive will be commenced to mop up the intelligence and plot-breeding organizations of the U.S. and South Korea.”

Han took that a step further with the extradition statement.

“According to our law, the Central Public Prosecutor’s Office of the DPRK will use all available methods to start to work to demand the handover of the criminals involved, so as to punish the organizers, conspirators and followers of this terrible state-sponsored terrorism,” he said.

North Korea claims the primary suspect is a man it has identified only by the ubiquitous surname “Kim.” It says he is a North Korean resident of Pyongyang who worked for a time in the Russian Far East. State media said he was involved in the timber industry in Khabarovsk, which is one of the primary places North Koreans can go overseas to work.

The North further said that a South Korean agent named Jo Ki Chol and a “secret agent” named Xu Guanghai, director general of the Qingdao NAZCA Trade Co. Ltd., met Kim in Dandong, on North Korea’s border with China, to give him communications equipment and cash. The North also said “a guy surnamed Han” taught Kim how to enlist accomplices.

“These terrorists plotted and planned in detail for the use of biochemical substances including radioactive and poisonous substances as the means of assassination,” Vice Minister Han said, reading from a prepared statement. “These biochemical substances were to be provided with the assistance of the CIA … while the South Korean Intelligence Service was going to provide necessary support and funding for this attempt at assassination on our supreme leader.”

North Korea’s U.N. Mission said the organizers infiltrated “the terrorist” into the DPRK with several pieces of satellite communications equipment so he could be updated “with the operational code of terrorism against the supreme leadership, various terrorist methods of using biochemical substances, ways of bribing and hiring the one who would actually carry out the terrorist act and ways of entering the venue of the event.”

The statement said the organizers also gave him instructions to report on the “creed” of the person who would carry out the attack “and the state of his ‘brainwashing,'” and to make sure the preparations were perfect, as there could be a war if it was revealed that South Korea’s intelligence agency backed the operation.

In statements for foreign distribution, North Korea often refers to its leader Kim Jong Un without naming him, instead using the phrase “supreme leadership” or “supreme dignity.”

The last time that Han appeared to brief foreign diplomats in Pyongyang was last December, to present North Korea’s response to the latest round of U.N. sanctions after the September 2016 nuclear test.

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Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations