by WorldTribune Staff, April 21, 2019
A former U.S. Marine has been arrested in connection with a North Korean opposition group’s Feb. 22 raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid.
Reuters reported that the participants fled the embassy with computers and hard drives that they presented to the FBI.
Christopher Ahn, a member of Free Joseon (previously known as Cheollima Civil Defense), was arrested in Los Angeles and appeared in federal court on April 19, The Washington Post reported. Ahn’s attorney requested that the courtroom be sealed over the government’s objection.
Free Joseon consists of several North Korean defectors and seeks the overthrow of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
Lee Wolosky, a lawyer for the group, said in a statement that he was “dismayed that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to execute warrants against U.S. persons that derive from criminal complaints filed by the North Korean regime.”
Related: In first, North Korea acknowledges mysterious opposition group, March 31, 2019
“The last U.S. citizen who fell into the custody of the Kim regime returned home maimed from torture and did not survive,” Wolosky said, referring to college student Otto Warmbier’s 2017 death.
“We have received no assurances from the U.S. government about the safety and security of the U.S. nationals it is now targeting,” he added.
Longtime Asia analyst Bradley K. Martin, writing for the Asia Times, noted that “the embassy raiders are the same guys who earlier helped to rescue and hide Kim Han-Sol, son of Kim Jong-Un’s elder brother Kim Jong-Nam, after Pyongyang agents assassinated Jong-Nam at a Malaysian airport. They may see the younger man as a future ruler or figurehead once they kick out Kim Jong-Un.”
Martin added: “The problem with any such scheme is that dynastic rule is at the root of North Korea’s problems. I have previously sought to advise young Kim Han-Sol that the last thing his countrymen need is a fourth-generation Kim ruler.”
A Spanish police investigator in the embassy raid case told The Associated Press in Madrid on April 20 that Ahn was identified by Spanish police at a later stage of its investigation into the raid and that an international arrest warrant was also issued against him.
Spanish authorities said 10 Cheollima members entered the embassy and shackled and interrogated staffers, while urging the embassy’s commercial attaché to defect without success.
Intelligence officials in Spain alleged that two of the intruders had ties to the CIA.
In a related development, U.S. federal agents on April 18 raided the unoccupied apartment of the group’s leader, Adrian Hong.
Martin wrote that “First, agreeing to extradition requests when treaties call for doing so is the default response. Imagine what mischief might result if the Trump administration refused to consider handing the culprits over to Spain for trial. Washington has embassies abroad and certainly does not want them violated by revolutionaries – no matter how appealing the revolutionaries’ cause.”
Martin added: “Of course, it would be hard for many Americans to think of a more appealing revolutionary cause than toppling the Kim regime. For the moment, though, regime change in Pyongyang is not U.S. policy and the administration may well think it’s a good idea to remind Chairman Kim Jong-Un of that fact, as the North Korean ruler ponders his future options in view of Trump’s apparent loss of enthusiasm for granting Kim’s number one policy wish: removal of US troops from South Korea.”