South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday warned that the recently announced purge of North Korea's No. 2 official shows that Pyongyang is carrying out a "reign of terror" that might jeopardize bilateral ties, Reuters reported.
Jang Song Thaek, the uncle through marriage of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un was removed from his positions of authority -- including his seat on the powerful National Defense Commission -- as punishment for alleged traitorous acts and corrupt lifestyle, according to reports from regime-controlled media. The manner of the high-profile purge, which included cameras recording Jang being physically forced out of a meeting of the governing Worker's Party, is highly unusual for North Korea. The isolated state typically conducts such business behind closed doors. Two close allies of Jang's reportedly were executed publicly in recent days.
"North Korea is currently carrying out a reign of terror, undertaking a large-scale purge in order to strengthen Kim Jong Un's power," Park told her cabinet.
"From now on, South-North Korea relations may become more unstable," the South Korean leader said.
The U.S. State Department on Monday declined to comment on Jang's ouster.
"We've seen the reports," an unidentified department official told the Yonhap News Agency. "But we do not have any comment."
Jang's falling out of favor with Kim -- until recently, the uncle was seen as a regent and mentor to the young leader -- means that China has lost its highest ranking contact in Pyongyang, according to the Associated Press.
"China doesn't have many connections with [North Korea] at the top level to begin with," said Roger Cavazos, a North Korea specialist at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability. "Jang's purge means that China lost one of the few conduits they had."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Tuesday that Beijing views Jang's ouster as a domestic issue, but added: "We hope North Korea can maintain national stability."
Cavazos told the New York Times there is strong concern inside China about Pyongyang carrying out a fourth nuclear test and that the North Korean ruler is perceived to be "more and more out of control."
"Every Chinese I have spoken with were worried Kim Jong Un would test soon," said the onetime U.S. Army intelligence officer.