North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has asked the judiciary and the police to take steps against 'rebellious elements in society', hinting at unrest among a 'hungry and previously cowed population'.
In a meeting of the heads of internal security branches, a message from Kim was read out demanding that they find and eliminate 'rebellious people who are manoeuvering behind the scenes to destroy our unity and prompt a riot'.
Kim's orders, reported by North Korea's news agency, are being taken as confirmation that there have been small-scale incidents against the regime in recent years, the Telegraph reports.
According to the report, the message to the police added that the security forces must 'find those who are only waiting to unleash their hidden daggers and mercilessly crush every one of them.'
Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and an expert on North Korean affairs, said there are credible reports that the regime is losing its iron grip on parts of the countryside, the report said.
"Orders from Pyongyang are not being carried out in rural areas and there have been some complaints against the regime, whose power is weakening," Professor Shigemura said.
"It is that weakening power that has forced Kim to speak out now," he said, although he played down suggestions that any protests have sufficient momentum to seriously challenge the regime," he added. (ANI)