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Published: Sunday December 15, 2013 MYT 10:51:02 PM
Updated: Sunday December 15, 2013 MYT 10:51:50 PM

Kerry says North Korea's leader reckless, ruthless

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as reckless and insecure after the execution of his powerful uncle, according to an ABC News interview.

The execution of Jan Song Thaek, who was considered the second most powerful man in the secretive country, showed why the world must make a united stand against North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Kerry said in the interview taped for Sunday broadcast on ABC's "This Week" program.

North Korean state media on Friday reported the execution of Jang.

North Korean politics are virtually impenetrable from outside and Jang also could easily have been purged over a falling out with Kim, or other personal reasons.

"It tells us a lot about, first of all, how ruthless and reckless he is," Kerry said of Kim in the ABC interview. "And it also tells us a lot about how insecure he is, to a certain degree.

"The insights that we have tell us that he is spontaneous, erratic, still worried about his place in the power structure, and maneuvering to eliminate any potential kind of adversary or competitor and does so obviously ruthlessly."

The top U.S. diplomat, in some of the most detailed remarks of a U.S. official since the news on Friday, said the execution was not the first under Kim's rule and pointed to the urgency of addressing the North Korean nuclear state.

"It tells us a significant amount about the instability internally of the regime, with the numbers of executions," Kerry said. "It's an ominous sign of the instability and of the danger that does exist."

The young Kim, believed to be about 30, has carried out two long-range missile tests and a nuclear weapons test in defiance of U.N. sanctions since he took control two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The Obama administration is working with China, the closest thing Pyongyang has to an ally, in seeking help to prevent any internal upheaval in North Korea from destabilizing the Korean peninsula, U.S. officials say.

Kerry, in the interview, said the nature of "this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship" and Kim's insecurities raised the stakes for China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to "stay on the same page" and push ahead on denuclearization.

"To have a nuclear weapon potentially in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong Un just becomes even more unacceptable," Kerry told ABC.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Bill Trott)

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