Kerry weighs in on North Korea execution, Bob Levinson in Iran
December 15th, 2013
09:24 AM ET
8 years ago

Kerry weighs in on North Korea execution, Bob Levinson in Iran

(CNN) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s execution of his uncle was “an ominous sign” of instability and danger, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Kerry also weighed in on reports about former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran seven years ago. The United States has not stopped efforts to get him released, Kerry told ABC's "This Week."

The secretary of state is on an overseas trip that's taken him to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Vietnam, and will carry him through Manila and Tacloban later this week.

'Spontaneous' and 'erratic'

The killing of Kim's uncle - the latest execution of many in recent months, Kerry said - shows the degree to which Kim is "reckless" and "insecure."

"And most importantly, it underscores the importance for all of us of finding a way forward with North Korea in order to denuclearize the peninsula," Kerry said, adding that the U.S. has made "progress" with China in the effort.

Jang Song Thaek, Kim's uncle by marriage, was, until recently, regarded as the second-most powerful figure in North Korea. He was considered to be the regent who secured Kim's assumption of power after the 2011 death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The country remains "opaque," but the insights the U.S. government has about Kim indicate the young leader is "spontaneous, erratic, (and) still worried about his place in the power structure," Kerry said. He stressed that China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States all need to "stay on the same page" about the urgency of removing North Korea as a nuclear threat.

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

On Levinson, Kerry says he has 'personally raised the issue'

Meanwhile, Kerry hit back against suggestions that the United States has abandoned Levinson. The Associated Press and the Washington Post reported Thursday that he was in fact working for the CIA in Iran, not conducting private business as officials have previously claimed.

"There hasn’t been progress in the sense that we don’t have him back. But to suggest that we’ve abandoned him or simply incorrect and not helpful," Kerry said. "The fact is that I have personally raised the issue, not only at the highest level that I have been involved with, but also through other intermediaries."

Both the State Department and Levinson's family have long denied he was working for the U.S. government when he disappeared on a trip to Iran in 2007. But Thursday's reports from the Washington Post and the AP said Levinson was on a CIA mission to dig up information.

A source involved in the matter told CNN there's proof that Levinson worked for the CIA undercover and under contract while also working as a private investigator.

Kerry said the United States is still looking for proof that Levinson is alive. A “number of different channels” are “being worked aggressively,” he said.

In 2011, the State Department said new evidence suggested that Levinson, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, was alive and being held somewhere in southwest Asia.

This year, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN, "We have every reason to believe that he's alive and that the Iranians control his fate."

Asked whether he believes the Iranian government is responsible for his disappearance, Kerry said he thinks the government "has the ability to help us here, and we hope they will."

During a September interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was asked what he could tell Levinson's family.

"We don't know where he is, who he is," Rouhani said. "He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him."

- Ashley Killough, Jethro Mullen, Tom Watkins, Susan Candiotti, and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

Filed under: Iran • John Kerry • North Korea
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. George

    Kim Jung Un, when he isn't having relatives executed, or sending innocent men women and children to die in work camps, is a very gentle man, who likes to bake snicker doodles.

    December 15, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. jamie

    How is the view from under the bus Bob?

    December 15, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. just saying

    One animal kills another animal. Big deal. That's what animals do!

    it is a big deal. this animal has nuclear weapons and americans are within their range. but as for them killing each other, i am in total agreement. hopefully they all kill each each other until somebody sane emerges to take this whackjob country into the 21st century and free its people.

    December 15, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. Matt

    No one wants him not a civilian former FBI, not CIA, not American, just a rogue under commad of an aerobics instructor, Juden. He was Mossad, he belonged to us. We will claim to he bones.

    December 15, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. tistheseason

    With only a few Weeks left in the year,politicians are now scrambling to get their understatements of the year in.

    December 15, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. kws11

    So we're supposed to be amazed? The only thing that's amazing to me is that it took this for Kerry to realize that the leadership of North Korea is unstable and dangerous. Most sentient mammals have known this for several decades.

    December 15, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Johnny 5

    Kerry is just as reckless if not more.

    December 15, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. move_on

    We do not actually know if he was executed. He could just as well be on a different mission for The Kim, with a good cover about his non-existence.

    December 15, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. No Way Jose

    Like most of the Obama Administraion, John Kerry is under qualified, and is a liar. This complete fool, whose wife bought his appointment, bungles one foreign policy situation after another. What should we expect from someone who rats out the guys from his platoon for personal gain and lies about his service and valor during an election? Kerry will certainly make worse the weakened global position of the US created by his predecessor Hillary Clinton.

    December 15, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. fokoff

    says the fattest ho of the moment.

    December 15, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. yuripelham

    In one month there may be a new dear leader. Meanwhile whatever happens, it's China's responsibility for they are the enablers.

    December 15, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Geraldo

    Such a wonewee wittle man! maybe d.rodman can cheer him up a bit and help him make good choices! sounds like he needs to go to one of them there snuggle brothels for a spell! im so wonewee so womewee wham i!

    December 15, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. smdahl

    Our government would never execute a one of their own, only one of us. Much more "humane".

    December 15, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Steve Bobolia

    I'll bet there will be some uncomfortable moments at the Jong-Un family gatherings over the holidays.

    December 15, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  15. Uncle Sam

    SO what, I've executed two of my uncle's, and I fool around some nuclear weapons now and then. So what, you are all perfectly safe.

    December 15, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. pdxdave

    Our current president is reckless.

    December 15, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  17. Matt

    He is Juden, it is like Imad and Syria. Box on mate. No difference. It is cool like Johnston, Shalit, Levinson is my Juden. Buckley. Burn Syria.

    December 15, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. Ralph_in_FL

    Wow, that is deep. Next he will be telling us Kim Jong Un is short, fat and ugly.

    December 15, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  19. Julian

    Remember when the news agencies would try and help during when government was in a tough situation? Why are they trying to prove Levinson was in the CIA? Do they want him killed? He is one of our own!

    December 15, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. Lucky_Teeter

    This killer executes his own uncle and, all he is called is 'reckless' and 'insecure'. The guy is a murderer, low life thug, acts like Hitler, starves his own people, kicks sand in America's face every chance he gets, and we tolerate this ? Lob a couple of Tomahawk or Hellfire missiles at his home and he will shake in his boots and cower in fear.
    This guy lives by the sword...he will die by the sword.

    December 15, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Matt

    You named him as Juden, I claimed him I have to explain that to Tel Aviv in about 6 months. We claimed him. They know what it means death.

    December 15, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. chas

    I guess we get offended when someone else exhibits the same behavior we do.

    December 15, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. CTYank

    Still amazing that so many still take their cues from Rush & Faux! Pathetic! Think for yourselves.

    December 15, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. Ed

    Anyone who has some basic understanding of Asian history understand what he did is completely logical and a text book way to consolidate power. History told us that whenever a new leader is in, all old officials are out, the ones who has real power (military) are watched carefully and when dirt is dug up (or created), they are executed. A completely predictable sequence of actions when change of power occurs. And most importantly it could happen between blood brothers. This is not erratic, neither reckless, nor spontaneous.

    December 15, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Johan S

    Ok, but would our president shake his hand?

    December 15, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
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