In a potential sign of escalating tensions, North Korea has accused the United States and South Korea of having conspired to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong-un, with "biochemical agents."
The accusation was made Friday by North Korea's Ministry of State Security in a lengthy statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. It says the "recently uncovered" plot was hatched in 2014 by the CIA and South Korea's National Intelligence Agency—"hotbed of evils in the world"—who had bribed and "ideologically corrupted" a North Korean citizen.
That citizen, identified only as Kim, was allegedly working in Russia in the timber industry. The Washington Post writes that he
was supposed to target the "supreme leadership" at a public event or military parade, using "bomb terrorism" involving "biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano-poisonous substance," [the statement] said.
"Criminals going hell-bent to realize such a pipe dream cannot survive on this land even a moment," the statement said, and denounced the agencies as "U.S. imperialists and the puppet clique."
The Ministry of State Security said it will "ferret out and mercilessly destroy" the "terrorists" in the intelligence agencies, the Associated Press writes.
The Guardian notes that "the CIA's long history of attempting covert assassinations of political leaders across the world is notorious," but, as with "other North Korean claims, the allegation that the CIA plotted to assassinate Kim is impossible to verify. Media reports about the regime are tightly controlled by the state's propaganda machinery and often designed merely to burnish the leader's reputation."
Still, as AP describes it, the new accusation marks a departure from the frequent bluster from Pyongyang directed at the U.S., as it "was unusual in its detail."
It comes a day after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation to impose fresh sanctions against North Korea. The bill targets the North Korea's shipping industry and "convict, forced, or indentured labor."