North Korea Announces Execution of Leader's Uncle

Jang Song-thaek is executed after being purged for "acts of treachery
3:00 | 12/13/13

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Transcript for North Korea Announces Execution of Leader's Uncle
This is a special room. -- -- -- New York with -- ABC news digital special report North Korea executed the man thought to be the second most powerful person in the country. Kim Jung -- uncle Jang song -- killed after a military trial where he was found guilty of plotting a military coup. Kim -- -- called him quote. Worse than a dog. ABC's Karen Travers has -- on the latest joins us now from Washington Karen. Good afternoon down there are some pretty stunning quotes coming out from North Korea's state run media at some of the -- that you just mentioned. And -- -- very surprising that they have made this so public given how secretive this nation has been. These are major shakeup in North Korea and a clear sign that the rogue nations young leader will not tolerate dissent and -- threats to his power. Kim Jung who had his uncle Alex acute it Jang song -- the country's unofficial number two was accused of being a trader. The news was announced publicly -- surprise move for the secretive regime. Photos were released of the uncle being arrested -- and -- dragged before a military tribunal. He was accused of trying to overthrow North Korea's young leader. It was called a traitor for all ages and despicable human -- Found guilty of plotting a military coup -- was executed immediately. The headlines from North Korea's state run media say the uncle deserved it can do -- route his -- in Pyongyang felt the same way. He's the -- -- to be crazy enough to take over powerful party and our leader he got what he deserved. Jiang was an advocate for economic reform -- -- -- on he was a mentor who helped him transition to power after his father's death two years ago. The bold move by Kim -- and sets up what analysts say could be a significant power struggle between the older -- the younger generation and -- it also shows that Kim -- and it will not accept anything but complete loyalty. A lot of the thing is obviously anytime anything happens in North Korea the entire world pays attention but what about the White House has a better response. For the Obama administration to this or. We're expecting a little bit more today when we get briefings at the White House and the State Department but -- last night the State Department said while they cannot verify independently these reports they have no reason to doubt what is coming out of North Korea. And they said that if it is true and they believe it is. The execution to show's Dave total brutality of the North Korean regime and they are monitoring this issue very closely. Transparency transparency on very high visibility -- at their ABC's Karen Travers Karen thank you for that. Little bit more on the story now when a Braly Martinez from the Pentagon and -- what does -- the military response and -- froze from the presence that we have in the region South Korea there. Well obviously this is of great -- to the United States forces there in the south Korean Peninsula 120000. American troops in South Korea. They are not on a heightened state of alert and we are told. On north South Korean military on the however this is as Karen said in her report in the United States and South Korea monitoring this. The South Korean government and emergency session. Shortly after the news broke. But it doesn't appear to be any heightened state of alert on the part of the military's involved. There's actually signs that. There will be no break between -- talks between -- two countries. -- there's always been some kind of negotiations. In terms of improving economic relationship between both countries. And there's a set of meetings are scheduled for next week and those are still on. Thompson. I actually heard one official saying that if anything South Koreans are taking the news in stride through -- let me ask you this because Kerry -- talked about the fact that. That not only the trial with the execution that deet -- so put out for the rest of the world to -- -- to understand and try to. Get an idea for how the power is being divided among the leaders there is -- an encouraging sign that transparency for the rest of the world. While it -- curry aging if you think that this is a development for transparency and Eritrea. Arm but the fact that this is an -- senior official. Who -- at the side of Kenyon on frontiers and he's been in power. And now to hear that he's actually been executed. And that is a troubling aspect as well. Now what does that mean you hurting -- report there a SoundBite from individual in Pyongyang. So that means it is the message -- gotten across. -- that the general population in North Korea. Been reading some of what the yen North Korean state -- -- -- -- he has been talking about -- And -- activities and then they characterize him in those terms you know this -- as as someone who was acting. As a traitor. And that he deserved this. -- may be that openness that we're seeing is a way to build up support internally. Four -- -- as opposed to. Children transparency to the outside world so hot as the US and deal with something like this given -- fact that there is that nuclear ambitions Norris. You know and and I was going through my notes earlier this week trial -- a colleague and dived into I was going back through the notes. From -- earlier this year when North Korea ways menacing. And some kind of a missile attack on the United States -- -- remember that. They were talking about it their nuclear capabilities. North Korea has done a couple of underground nuclear test they are -- nuclear powers are obviously -- are always of concern. But -- the thinking has always been and that their capabilities are rather rudimentary when it comes to that scale. But so whenever you see any sense of instability. In North Korea it creates tension. This is actually one of the main reasons why China supports. The North Korean regime. They like the stability of having to Koreans on the peninsula what they don't like is uncertainty. And when you -- a -- -- a situation like this what this paragraph vacuuming and value -- feel like there might be some instability taking place on the other hand. -- Korean watchers aren't talking about how this is a power grab on his part -- -- and communities trying to you. -- support internally that you may have done this surprisingly early in his tenure he remember he's only been in power for two years and he when he was twenty years old unproven. And now he's exerting himself in a very dramatic way what and there was a lot of talk of just how much his father -- grandfather's legacy was gonna carry on in the way that he he was gonna handle the country. So what does it do them with something like this. It presents itself does not only for the rest of the world but but internally as well -- -- managing that kind of message to exit who exactly is in power is Kim Jong-un. What kind of -- that would you know what kind of a campaign as he have to rally right now -- to show in fact that he is the head of that country. Well I think he's -- with this action I mean there's nothing more dramatic than what. He has demonstrated this week the fact that you CDs videos. Of him being grabbed in an open party session I mean that is -- stunning. Then the quick images of the show trial and and then being told that he has been executed excuse me. And so I. It's just an amazing to me to see all -- develop so quickly. And also I think what's what he's doing here is showing that he is in charge. Early on that thinking line is that tech was going to be his mentor it was -- guide him through the continuity of the -- is going to be continued because he was his uncle. While the fact he's doing this to his uncle shows how ruthless he can -- might actually be. His father was known can be just as ruthless with -- cronies who he felt might be getting. Too much fever or might have intentions of their own. And into it seems to me and I get this very young. Individual. Who heads a nuclear nation. He's just demonstrated in a very strong way that he is in charge and yet when you take this in you. Put this next to the north releasing Merrill -- -- US war vet who traveled there as a tourist. It it's a very unusual dichotomy to see those kinds of extremes in how Kim Jong-un is running the north. -- -- -- -- -- Played into their propaganda hands -- -- they knew that calling him might not have as long term value. If we can't say that the fact that he was a Korean War veteran at the very early on they are able. Q later in the human say that he was kind of forced into reading that videotaped confession about his activities during the Korean War retirement something -- sixty years ago. And they -- playing that up for propaganda value. The propaganda value here in this instance is more domestic. Less foreign. The case they were trying to play at the Korean war in the United States' role -- that and I releasing him they may get some. Some good feedback in doing so. But it internally the message with. Jack -- tech. And his execution is a message to -- and North Korean cadres. In his government that he means business a message the north Koreans and it's obviously the international community as well ABCs of the Martinez at the Pentagon really thank you for that. Of course we have a complete write up right here on -- -- I'm Dan that's -- New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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