The White House has condemned the reported execution of Jang Song Thaek, an uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The executed official, once considered the second most powerful man and a "China man in Pyongyang," was accused of treason and drug abuse among other charges.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that while the President Obama administration could not confirm Thaek's execution, there is no reason to doubt the North Korea state media's announcement that he was put to death Thursday.
"What it is indicative of, however, is the values of the regime, their low regard for human life, and what is probably the worst human rights record in the world, and that's saying something," Carney said, according to Voice of America.
"The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state," North Korea's official KCNA news agency stated, according to Wall Street Journal.
"It is an elementary obligation of a human being to repay trust with sense of obligation and benevolence with loyalty," KCNA added. "However, despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader for him."
Thaek was considered a key link between Pyongyang and Beijing because of his association with the former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Thaek was also supportive of China-backed economic reforms in the North.
The official's execution may not directly affect China's relations with the North, but it might further weaken Beijing's thin influence on Pyongyang.
"Kim has now finished consolidating his power and doesn't need to take drastic change in his foreign policy. Jang was merely a person who offered advice and implemented policy," The Associated Press quoted Wang Junsheng, a North Korea watcher at the government's Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying.
China continues to cooperate with the United States and other international players in their efforts to put into effect sanctions and persuade North Korea to agree for nuclear talks.
John Everard, British ambassador to North Korea from 2006 to 2008, suggests the move by Jong Un was meant to create fears in the minds of North Korean people.
"The unpleasant consequences of stepping out of line will have been particularly clear to those who will have pored over the newspaper photograph of Jang at his tribunal. They may have noticed, as have photographic analysts outside the country, that Jang's cheek appears to be bruised and that there is discolouration around his wrists," Everard wrote in a column in Britain's Independent newspaper.
"They will also have been startled by the revelations in the official reports both of Jang's eviction from the party and of his tribunal. Usually the regime claims that the party is united around the views of Kim Jong-un, but these reports make clear that Jang and others disagreed with Mr Kim and allegedly even plotted against him," the former diplomat added.
"Moreover, they are brought up to believe that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il were infallible geniuses. But these reports show that both men gave their trust to a man who was 'no better than a dog'," Everard noted. "So even the demigods who have ruled North Korea can commit errors of judgement?"