Nightly News   |  December 12, 2013

North Korea executes Kim Jong Un’s uncle

The man who was believed to be in charge of training his young nephew to take over was executed as a traitor, indicating a shake-up in Kim Jong Un’s regime. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> word has arrived from overseas the leader of north korea has executed a family member. kim jong -un had his own uncle killed after making a public display of removing him from power. back when his father kim jong il ran north korea , this same uncle was considered high ranking, perhaps the number two man in the country. this execution is one way for this young new leader to show the world, in graphic terms, that he's firmly in charge. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell here with with us in studio tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. indeed, this official announcement is the clearest evidence of a major shakeup by this brutal regime in north korea . a nuclear power . causing alarm in washington and with north korea 's most powerful neighbor, china. kim jong -un, the young, untested leader now eliminating the power behind the throne . executing his own uncle jang song thaek , the uncle believed to be in charge of training his young nephew to take over. now according to north korea 's official announcement, executed as a traitor. in fact, called, quote, despicable human scum, worse than a dog. the announcement went on to accuse him of thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the leader of the party for him. it claims he confessed at a military tribunal , what was clearly a show trial . his downfall was shown on state tv this week when he was arrested, shown being pulled out of a public meeting. thaek was viewed as a potential economic reformer, in charge of the transition of power and second in command. he was also the point man for maintaining pyongyang's relationship with beijing. the white house says there is no reason to doubt the official announcement of the execution. an official said if confirmed this is another example of the extreme brutality of the north korean regime. the administration is monitoring developments closely and consulting with allies in what is now clearly a new crisis for the white house .

>> a big story from there. andrea, thanks as always.