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(LEAD) N.K. leader's public activities dwindle due to firmer grip on power: spy agency

All News 16:41 June 15, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS para 3; UPDATES with new info in paras 5-8)

SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has cut his public activities significantly as he firmed up his grip on power.

In its briefing to the National Assembly's intelligence committee, the NIS also said that the reclusive leader has been engrossed with gleaning intelligence on the South's military operations plan to "decapitate" the North Korean leadership.

(KCNA-Yonhap file photo) (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)

"Since 2013, there has been a downward trend in terms of (Kim's) public activities, and this is attributed to the fact that he has already gotten control (of his regime)," an NIS official was quoted by the committee members as saying.

The official told the panel that Kim carried out public activities 51 times this year, a drop of 32 percent from the same period last year.

Regarding the North's missile development program, the NIS said that Pyongyang is focusing on a "middle-stage" missile as it is on its way to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It, in particular, mentioned the liquid-engine KN-17 anti-ship ballistic missile thought to have a range of 5,000 kilometers.

On May 14, the North test-fired the missile which reached a top altitude of 2,100 km, the NIS pointed out.

The agency, in addition, said that Pyongyang had notified Seoul that its 32-member delegation, led by Chang Ung, a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, will participate in the June 24-30 WTF World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, some 240 kilometers south of Seoul.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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